Mobile Apps, Product Management

5 ways to stop email from ruining your business

Back in the day it was a novelty to hear the “AOL You’ve Got Mail” sound which was forever immortalised in the movie with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks – You’ve Got Mail. These days you’re lucky if you get away without having your phone ping every couple of seconds with notifications of new email.  If you’re at your desk, well then you might get a phone notification, desktop notification and notification on your smartwatch.

That sound has come to represent something very different – stress and lots of it. But once you’ve dealt with the spam email you get every day, how can you ensure that you and your team are effectively using email, and not creating more work and stress from it? We’ve seen this a number of times in various organisations and the net result of that cortisol-inducing ping is that your train of thought is interrupted, you get stressed out, and it takes you at least 5 minutes to recover back to what you were originally doing. As a result, your job (the actual one you get paid for) never gets done – instead you spend your life replying to emails, and the more you reply to, the more you get. So here are some tips for reducing the amount of emails you receive.

1. Mark specific times in the day for replying to emails & turn off notifications
Rather than having your email switched on all day decide on specific times per day that you will reply to your emails, and make your colleagues aware of your plans. This will entirely remove that notification that’s vibrating on your desk and pinging on your desktop and means that when you actually reply, you’ll be in the right mindset and not interrupting the tasks you’re doing which need specific thought.

2. If you need to have a discussion, pick up the phone

It’s old fashioned we know, but if you need to have a discussion about something, don’t do it on email – do it the way it as designed to be done, by talking. Otherwise you’ll end up with an email chain that spans days, and doesn’t actually get the timely result you need.

3. Think before you ‘cc’
Carbon Copy is one of our most hated of things – somewhere along the line somebody decided that it would be a good idea to use carbon copy in order to cover their tracks and now it’s used as a mechanism for “you were on the email chain, and you didn’t object, so it’s not my fault”. This is not what carbon copy was intended for. Make a conscious decision about who really needs to be on this chain, and if it’s something you can fill your superior in on during your in person catch up with them and if so, do it in person.

4. Make your subject line appropriate
We admit, we stole this from a friend of ours. If you need someone to take action from a specific email mark it as so in the subject line, with something similar to “Action Required” before a short description of what the email covers. It makes it nice and easy for the person receiving the email to understand what the email is about and whether they need to do anything from it.

5. Know your audience
Are you sending an email to your time-poor C-suite level boss? Are they the kind of person who wants the solution presented first and in concise bullet points? Think about this before you send your email. Use numbered lists and bullet points to keep things clear and only include the relevant information in the email.  

If practising the above five tips gets you someway there, but doesn’t quite solve the problem, try out new email programmes like Google Inbox – it allows you to include all of your email accounts in one place (useful for those of us who have yahoo, multiple gmail , outlook and work accounts), snooze emails to be reminded of them later, and have your most pertinent information shown at the top of your inbox. Finally, accept that it’s unlikely you’ll get your emails down to zero – a bit of a hard one for those of us who have a minimalist approach to life.