Getting Good at Email

Getting good at email.

I just read an article on “Why you should get ridiculously good at Email in 2015”. I agree with everything he says in the article about “why” but he doesn’t tell you “how”.  So here are my 7 tips. My apologies to those not using Outlook because that is my email client of choice so my suggestions will reference Outlook functionality.

1. Invest some time to set up your email system. Invent a folder naming convention. I split my emails into three major folders: Personal folders, Client Folders and Folder pertaining to the internal workings of my business. In each major folder area, I have sub folders such as a folder for each client. Within subfolders, I will have more sub-folders, usually by names of people or client projects.

2. You have probably heard this one before but handle each email once. After 27 years of using email (my first email experience was circa 1987 using PROFS on a green screen), I am still pretty crappy that sticking to this rule but better than I used to be. When I open an email, I have one of four objectives: Delete it, File it, Flag it or Action it. By “sort of” sticking to this rule, I generally keep my inbox at 10 to 25 emails. Here is how I do it:

3. Flag emails you send. I flag Sent emails so I can follow-up if I don’t get a response or if I want to check back on something at sometime in the future. There are two ways to flag Sent items. First way (if I remember) is to click on “Follow-up Tag” in the sending menu before you send the email and set a date for follow-up. The email will then appear in your task list on that due date. If you forget to do this before you send (as I usually do), then review your Sent folder once a day and right click on the Flag and set follow-up dates for any sent emails requiring future follow-up

4. Use the task list. In Outlook, all flagged items show in your task list, sorted by due date. This includes flagged emails which have been dragged out of your Inbox and filed in your folders or in the sent folder. I use my task list of flagged emails to stay on top of emails needing action or emails that I am waiting for someone to respond to.

5. Create Outlook rules. (Home>Rules>Manage Rules & Alerts) Some people go crazy creating rules to order the way emails are displayed, sort emails by whether they are the recipient, CC’d or BCC’d, automatically file or delete emails, etc.  I am not smart enough to be confident that I have figured out what these rules should look like so I don’t use rules other than a rule to delay sending emails by one minute. This rules automatically leaves every sent email in my Outbox for one minute before sending. This one minute delay allows me to re-open the email when I have forgotten to add an attachment, when I have inadvertently send it to the wrong person (because Outlook auto-populated the address) or when I have forgotten to add someone to the CC list.

6. Use a Signature Block (File>Options>Mail>Signatures). It drives me nuts when people do not have a signature block on their email. People rarely exchange business cards anymore. Instead we connect on LinkedIn, but this rarely provides phone contact info.  So create a signature block and put your business card info there. Not only does it make you look professional but it allows people to call you when they need to (such as when they are going to me 5 minutes late for a meeting)

7. Don’t piss people off with poorly written emails. Here are some tips:

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