Business Email for Beginners – Extended

November 5th, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

Business Email for Beginners – Extended

In many work environments you need to use email.  It’s a tool that can suck the life out of your day.  We don’t get awards for doing it well and we can’t put Efficient eMail Management as a skillset on our resume.

Before you let “eMail” get out of control make sure you know what you’re getting into.  You’re at work and you open your inbox and it feels like a holiday.  You see unread email messages and you feel compelled to open it and see what great news is awaiting you.  Alas it’s a message for the entire team that you need to fill out your time keeping or health coverage open enrollment is almost over so be sure to let HR know you’re interested or worse yet the action item your boss gave you is past due!

Whether you’re new to email or not not managing your email will melt your time into a puddle of nothingness.  I’m going to help you get control of your email because in terms of beginners this is your most valuable commodity…time.

So how do you NOT waste time on email?

  1. Don’t check email too often or better schedule it
    1. Unless it’s an actual job function refrain from checking it every 15 minutes
      1. You’ll know it’s a job function if:
        1. If the services your role provides includes responding to requests via email.  If it DOES then there is likely a commitment level attached to it so use that as your schedule
    2. You stop using it, no not really, you can’t do that but you can stop looking at it so often as if you can’t wait to open your birthday present.  This is very tricky business so read carefully.  In some circles they tell you to advertise that you will only look at your email 4 times a day, 8AM when you get in, 10AM, 2PM and 5PM when you leave.  My advice. unless you’re in a position in the organization that you can get away with this, forget it, just do it and don’t communicate it, this includes your team or even your boss.  Why not?
      1. People don’t think you get to tell them when you’re going to check email
      2. People have unrealistic expectations of how you manage email especially if they think you get email on your phone or they think you sit at your desk all day as if email is the only thing you do
  2. Don’t write a book
    1. Keep it brief, subject line and content.  If you need to write a book it’s usually because:
      1. You can’t get the person’s attention (phone or in person)
      2. You’re upset and you don’t want to speak to or be in front of the person
      3. You’re trying to cover your tracks because someone will forget and you want it logged somehow
      4. **TIP if you “need” to have a long email put it in a document / memo format and attach it like it’s a real printed memo

This is obvious if it’s a long email it’s takes a longer time to type it out and ensure you’ve typed out something with detail and that time could have been spent just talking to the person(s)

  1. Don’t use email to communicate the following types of information:
    1. Emotionally charged (for you or them or even close to it)
    2. Complicated (Defined loosely)
    3. Complex (Defined Loosely)
    4. Sensitive information (passwords, logins, account numbers, personal info etc)
    5. If you find an existing email thread with any of these dispositions pick up the phone or get in front of the person or at least truncate it

This is because it will turn into a email chain of disastrous proportions.  Once an email is volleyed back and forth 3 times it’s a waste of time.

  1. Don’t put email on a mobile device unless it’s “required”
    1. You don’t want to become a slave to your email and by putting it on a mobile device you’re headed that way
    2. In some organizations you’ll need to give up control of your phone and let the company have visibility into your phone
    3. Exceptions:
      1. If someone tells you it’s part of the job – do it
      2. If you’re in a sales position and want to use it as a competitive edge – do it

You may begin thinking that you have it all under control and having company email on your phone is for YOUR benefit not there’s.  Then someone finds out and next thing you know people have expectations and now they think then can email and get responses at all hours or worse you’ll look during meetings because you think you can be more “efficient”.  The truth is it’s rude to the meeting organizer and you’ll give others the impression that you’re doing it to them in their meetings with you.


This all means nothing unless you can measure success.  You can do this by applying the following metric to what you’ve been doing and then after you’ve applied the aforementioned rules.  One method I created several years ago was counting all my SENT emails and multiply that by 3 and that’s approximately how much time in minutes you spent on emails in that same time period.  Believe it or not that was very accurate.  For example:

If I go to my SENT box and see 75 sent emails for yesterday this includes after hours so use the entire day.  Then multiply that by 3 and then divide by 60 you’ll get the hours you spent.

  • Sent email for Monday = 75
  • Multiply by 3 and divide by 60
  • 75×3/60=3.75
  • 3.75 hours total time spent on email for Monday

You’re reading that correctly.  I would spend 3.75 hours per DAY on email.  When I had this issue I was spending more time on email than actually interacting with my employees.  WAY too much time.  If it was a helpdesk person for a company and email was how I serviced them, this might be ok.  Most other people though, not at all effective.  Anything that takes up that much time needs to be on your review and job description.

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