Community Economic Development Fund

Go-to Person’s Guide to Good Email Hygiene

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By Bruce Tulgan

One symbol of the collaboration revolution must surely be the little “mail” icon on our devices. All day long it flashes the growing numbers of new emails puffing up our inboxes. But if you’re responding to emails all day long (and into the night), you aren’t likely to get “stuff” done.

Of course, maintaining this balance is even more important when working remotely. Email can become an even more unwelcome distraction when it is just one of a host of other electronic communications you must keep up with day to day.

Here’s some help:

  • Send fewer and better messages (you’ll get fewer back in return).
  • Before sending a message, ask yourself if you shouldn’t schedule a meeting (by telephone or video these days) with the person instead. Some things really are best communicated verbally.
  • Stop sending first drafts! Send first drafts to yourself.
  • If you are ‘messaging’ someone so you don’t forget to tell them something, instead send the ‘reminder’ to yourself.
  • Only cc people who need to be cc’d…. and only “reply all” if your reply is for all.
  • Use red flags and other indicators sparingly and with true purpose.
  • Make subject lines smart; context is everything.
  • Change subject lines on later emails if the subject changes.
  • Make messages brief, simple, and orderly.
  • Create a simple folder system for filing incoming and outgoing electronic communication based on how you will use them later.
  • Establish daily time blocks for reviewing and responding to electronic communication in batches rather than singly throughout the day. Manage people’s expectations by telling them about this practice. That will give them an idea of when to expect responses from you.
Bruce Tulgan is a leading expert on young people in the workplace and leadership and management. He is a best-selling author of twenty books, an adviser to business leaders all over the world, and a sought-after keynote speaker and management trainer. His company, RainmakerThinking, is based in Hamden, CT.  Bruce appeared recently on CEDF's Small Business As Usual podcast.

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