Have you ever gone through hundreds of email post vacation trying to catch up and found too many branches on one subject making it difficult to quickly get the full picture on that issue?
Have you ever read through a long email trail when you are in a new organization with many different people weighing in – and you don’t know who they are or what they do because there are no signatures, just a first name?
Have you ever had that sense that too much project management is happening via email?
Have you ever tried to find an email but there is no subject or useful subject to search on?
Have you ever lost the thread because the email trail is now on an entirely different topic but still carries the original unrelated subject line?
Have you ever looked at an email trail and wondered why someone doesn’t just pick up the phone or do a quick huddle with the right people to resolve the issue?
If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” you may share some of my frustrations with managing email.
So, what do we do? Complain or lead by example? I say lead by example and encourage your staff to do the same.
Here are tips to help manage your email while encouraging others to do the same:
- Avoid multiple branches on one subject
- Use an email signature to identify your role and department/team
- Avoid project management by email
- Use a meaningful subject – it helps the recipients when they are triaging/scanning their inbox and if they need to search for it later
- When you switch primary topics, start a new email or change the subject line
- Don’t rely on email when a conversation is needed or could more quickly resolve something
Yes, we can complain about too much email forever, but it’s how we work. The reality is that knowledge workers spend much of their day on email so make sure you and your colleagues are using it effectively. And if there are collaboration tools available, leverage them fully and consistently as an email alternative.