Rock Your Email Box with Professional Tactics and Strategies

April 3rd, 2018   |  

Do you recall using your email on Hotmail, Yahoo!, or American Online (AOL)? If you used email in the early 90s, you probably used one of these services. The terminology for electronic mail transitioned into email, and it expanded widely since the early 90s. Did you know that email has actually been around for much longer than the 90’s? In 1971 Ray Tomlinson invented electronic mail, which eventually developed beyond computer-to-computer communication into the Internet.

In today’s world, most people know how to send and manage email on services like Microsoft Outlook, Gmail, or Yahoo! Mail. However, many people could still benefit from some helpful advice on using email. Can email help you improve your day-to-day job performance, relationships with colleagues, or boost your professional image? Yes, it can!

Susan Heathfield explains that there are four areas that impact your initial professional image. These areas include appearance, interpersonal interaction, written interaction, and networking. Appearance and interpersonal interaction are probably the most important, since they are face-to-face and are vastly based on gestures and appearance. The next most important interactions are written impressions.

In fact, Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google talks about email in his book, How Google Works, which he co-authored with Jonathan Rosenberg (the former Senior Vice President of Products). How Google Works discusses many things, including how email should be used in professional circles. Google’s rise from a “late-stage startup” to its current position as a “mega-corporation” is due to the company’s innovative and smart approaches in handling strategy, technology, and communications.

It’s safe to say that email isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon. Based on DMR statistics, 86% of professionals use email as their source for communication. There are about 3.7 billion email accounts, and 269 billion emails are sent on a daily basis. Accounting for spam email, we can assume that about 133 billion legitimate emails are sent daily.

So, without further ado, let’s have a discussion on email, thanks to Schmidt and Rosenberg, who contributed the core ideas in this article.

Respond Quickly to Emails

If you can’t respond immediately to an email with a detailed response, then simply respond with a “Thanks, I’ll get back to you shortly.” Or, at least respond to emails according to the “sunset clause” which says to answer emails by sunset each day. Some emails may not require an immediate response, but simple responses such as “Thanks for the information. I’ll get back to you by…” notes that you received the email.

Why is speed so important? Think of it this way: the amount of time that passes between the time you received the email and the time you reply to the email correlates to how important this person is to you. Do you really want your client, employee, or coworker to feel that they are not important?

Don’t Write a Novel

To give an analogy about reducing wordiness in emails, Schmidt said this: “Think about the late novelist Elmore Leonard’s response to a question about his success as a writer: ‘I leave out the parts that people skip.’ Most emails are full of stuff that people can skip.” Don’t be that person.

Emails should always be simple and straight to the point. Think Twitter. You have to be super concise and get right to the point. However, professional emails should never be meatless. Professional emails should include separated paragraphs and bulleted lists. All different points or subjects should be separated for simplicity.

Categorize and Purge Emails

Each time you open your email, you need to decide how to categorize it. It’s a good practice to create folders inside your inbox that will allow you to store and categorize these notes. Folders can be titled, “Take Action Now,” “Due by Tuesday” or “My Favorite Client.” In this way, when you are purging your old emails, you won’t accidentally delete important ones. Labeling and storing important emails can help de-clutter the inbox, too. Remaining organized is the name of the game when it comes to emails.

Email Hierarchy

Some experts suggest responding to emails with a last in, first out order, however, this tip goes against our culture. When we go to, say, a restaurant and give our name to the hostess, we must wait for a table according to “first come, first serve.” This phenomenon is known as “queuing” and we do this for everything, from standing in line to buy goods at the store, to waiting our turn to see the doctor. But Schmidt says that by reading the latest email, we are learning the current, most up-to-date information. Besides, Schmidt says that “the older stuff” may be resolved by others. According to many experts, newer emails should be addressed first.

Consider Your Audience

When you receive an email with “useful information,” consider who else may find it useful, too. After all, everyone is a “router” and by sharing information and not squirreling it away, makes us appear considerate and others feel that they are important, too.

In addition, always try to consider your audience. Your message is not for you, it’s for an audience. How would you like your message to be received by this audience? Of course, diction, syntax, and grammar matter. But meaning is also construed by inference, tone, fairness, accuracy, and objectivity.

Avoid Email Rage

The Google authors acknowledge that it is easy to be impatient or sarcastic on email. Here’s an analogy: road rage. When a driver feels that they have been wronged on the road, they can turn into a Tasmanian devil. Same scenario with email. Don’t make email a vehicle of rage. It’s better to have a face-to-face conversation if you can’t maintain your cool in an email. If you can’t meet face-to-face, then relax and craft a professional response after you’ve had time to process.

Don’t Forget to Follow Up

Most emails usually have some kind of request at hand. So, when sending an email to someone with an action you want them to take, “copy yourself, then label the note “follow up.” Also, there are email reminders and follow-up services available that integrate with your email providers. Boomerang, Followup.cc, and Right Inbox give added functionality to your current email. These types of services let you track your emails by scheduling customized times and reminding you of certain ones with calendar pop-ups.

Can’t Find Old Emails?

The Google authors have good ideas for trying to help your “future self” when you are searching for a particular email. Sometimes that all important information comes from a mobile phone, a Light version for Outlook, or just from an individual who gives no background information. You can help yourself by forwarding the email to yourself and adding the additional information or keywords that will help you find it in the future.

Experts like Schmidt and Rosenberg agree: your reputation can be positively or negatively affected by how you use email. So, let’s rock our email box!

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