What's In Your Email In-Box

. . . and What to Do About It

How many emails do you receive each day? I'm not asking about the spam, which hopefully gets filtered out. But the real ones: 50?  100?  200?  More? I have four different Email Accounts. I have them set up according to specific functions and needs. Between these accounts - 150 emails is a LITE day.

  • How many emails do you actually read - completely?
  • How many emails do you just click open, glance at, and then delete . . . or worse, allow to accumulate as read but UNANSWERED?
  • How many emails do you send that are not read or answered? 
  • How frustrated are you with the condition of your In-box?
AND . . . what can you do about this? Here are a few suggestions.
1.  You might try TALKING. When you can have a short conversation with a person, go have it. Don't use the email as a replacement for conversation.
2.  Provide CRYSTAL CLARITY about the theme of your email in the subject line. That will be my main clue if I even want to open the email. Remember, when our inboxes are flooded, what is important to you may not seem very important to me. So GET MY ATTENTION… or not.  Remember - your email is 1 in 150. And that is not even adding in other social media avenues.
3.  People do not read long emails. So keep them short. Guy Kawaski says FIVE SENTENCES MAX for an email. Not five paragraphs. Five sentences. Be ruthless about this. Make every sentence count. The last sentence or two should be ACTION REQUIRED AND NEEDED AND BY WHEN.
4. Emails are not the place to give a report. Type up a report. Attach it as a file. The email should briefly say what is in the report and WHAT ACTION IS NEEDED AND BY WHEN. (Yes, I am repeating what the previous point said. It is amazing to me how few emails have this.)
5. Please, please, please stop using REPLY TO ALL. When a group email is sent out containing information the group needs, do not send your thoughts to the entire group. Discussions are not advanced in GROUP REPLYING TO ALL. Get the group together and have a conversation. It is a rare time when Reply to All has any meaning or usefulness.
6.  For that matter - be selective about Group Emails. Our inboxes are being flooded with group emails. I have a friend who works for an organization. On a daily basis my friend received 20-30 Group Emails from different departments in the organization. My friend hits DELETE without reading most of them.  By the way, if you are including me in Group Emails, unless it is small work group, I would like it if if you did more BCC Group emails. Don't put out my email to others without my permission. BCC keeps anonymity.
7.  By the way. Just an FYI. Stop sending important email via Facebook Message to people… don't count on a response.
8.  Follow the ONE TOUCH RULE for an email. You open it. Great. Now - take necessary action. Answer it, delete it or archive it. If you In-Box has more then 50 emails - you are in trouble.  (Some people say 20-30 is too many. I hover in that range.) I know people who have hundreds of emails in their inbox. Imagine having an in-box on your desk that has 500 hundred reports, requests, items and tasks. The chances of attending to any one item is 1 in 500. That's just the way it is with emails. Your massive In-box is probably depressing and confusing. (See #10.)
9.  What happens if you open it and you don't want to do something about it. At least do this. Reply to Sender saying email received and you are not going to do anything about this email. Or… you don't have the time now to attend to it. I have replied to people saying something like this. "I can't attend to this now. Email me again (and I give them a date) and I will attend to it. If I hear from you then, I will reply. If I don't hear back again, then you won't have a response." One of the reasons we have accumulating In-Boxes is we don't want to deal with the request or information sent us. You should be courteous and respectful of emails . . . but you are not obligated to the whims and needs of the sender.
10.. Develop a great archiving and FOLDER SYSTEM. I love how Gmail works for me on this. I keep my In-Box clean and my folders full. 
11.  What else works for you?
Attending to this will ease your stress and improve productivity (and working relationships).
Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International