Sent from an old colleague, his own personal list which makes an interesting read:
The 11 Rules of Email
These rules were born of necessity and if followed properly can help return some time and sanity into your day.
They are currently being published in Issues 8 and 9 of The Naked Leader’s “Leader Board” newsletter.
1. Inbox management – Clear your inbox every day to less than 30 emails (so the list dos not reach the bottom of outlook page). Set up folders covering each area you work on – or groups you deal with and religiously file – even if you have not always read. That way you can go back and review by topic and avoid the stress of an overfull inbox. (Note: Not in line with Getting Things Done, but fair point!)
2. Responding – Don’t be too quick to respond to email requests – emails are dead easy to send, and often hard and time consuming to respond to. I train people I work with and clients to call me if they want something urgent so that I know whether they are really serious and why they need a response.
3. Set a Delay – Set a sending delay of at least 2 minutes on your Outbox – it gives you just enough time to delete that accidental email. Better still you can set it for specific addresses such as clients. (Note: I use this one all the time. I cannot tell you the number of times where I have gone ‘oops’, reopened the mail and added one last little thing or double checked something)
4. Double Check Addresses – Double check your address lines in email before you send – outlook auto insert puts odd names in there (see 3 above!).
5. Arguments – Never, ever have an argument by email – everyone loses and it is recoded for posterity. If you sense a disagreement coming, make a call or organise a face to face meeting and then circulate the conclusions by email.
6. Favourite Form of Communication – Email is not everyone’s favourite form of communication. Some people are better “live”, others like to use the phone, and others respond (even in this day and age) to formal letters or memos. Try and find out which form your key people like and use if for important communications.
7. Email Content – The Daily Mail Test I used to work at the BBC right at the time when the big circular email scandals were taking place. We developed a very simple test for writing email content – don’t write anything in an email that you would not be happy for your mother to read on the front page of the Daily Mail.
8. Circulation List – When you need to respond to an email with a wide circulation on it stop and think. Do I need to send this to everyone? Is this “thread” wasting a lot of people’s time? (You can be sure that it is).
9. Interruptions – While internal emails can be a huge waste of time (is it so hard to either talk to someone?), they can also avoid an unnecessary interruptions. Interrupting someone at their desk wastes on average 11 minutes per interruption, so while talk is best, email may be a useful method to log a question or thought. Equally making a note and saving it for a lunchtime chat is also a good option.
10. Getting Something Actioned – if you are sending an email looking for someone to act you need to flag this everywhere ACTION REQUIRED in the title usually means it gets read. Flagging specific asks under: “Action: John to check this issue and confirm.” Makes it really clear who and what you are asking. This only works with people you know well.
11. Getting Your Message Across – people are all really pressured by email but scan the title an first few lines. If you need to get a response from people who are busy or don’t know you very well, construct your title carefully (proposition?) and get the message over in three paragraphs – no more. If you want approval, ask for it by asking them to merely reply to that email and type “yes”. You would be surprised how well this works – it’s so easy for them to respond!
A few interesting tips to keep email productive and in control. I would add a couple extra:
12. Don’t send email on the weekend unless it is truly urgent – your employees or peers may read it. Try to give them a break, and keep them off their Blackberry so they come in ready to go on Monday.
13. Avoid ‘Reply All’ at all cost – it just clogs the system.
14. Ask yourself one question over and over – do I really need to send this email? The world has enough email. If the answer is probably not or not really, then don’t.