8 Guidelines To Minimize Your Email

When you get back to work from a weekend do you suddenly have hundreds of emails waiting for you?

Does your email multiply?  Does it reproduce while you are asleep?

Some people are convinced this is the only answer to explain the mountain of email that appears in their inbox.

Where does all this email come from?

Email was once heralded as a miracle in communication.  Now it has become a productivity problem for most companies.  Email consumes so much time that it can be counterproductive.  Many employees are drowning in emails to the point that they regularly declare email bankruptcy and simply delete all their mail and start over.  (Have you done this?)

I have actually seen companies shut down by email run amok.

I was working at a Fortune 15 company that accidentally sent out an email to all employees that could be replied to.  Apparently, there was a hidden distribution list that addressed everyone in the company.  Well, you can guess what happened next.  Someone posted a silly response.  Which lead to another.  Every single employee in the company was getting spammed by this internal communication chaos.  Sounds funny, but within a hour, the email server was down and out for the rest off the day.  How much did that cost in time and money?

How you can stop the email flood…

Most people feel that they are powerless to hold back the flood of email pouring into their inbox.  However, you can dramatically impact the amount of email that you receive by adhering to some sound email practices.

Here are “8 Guidelines to Minimize Your Email:”

1 – Not Every Email Deserves a Response

This one may offend some, but just because you send me an email does not mean I am obligated to respond to it.  One of the biggest mistakes that people make is to respond to every single email that hits their inbox.  But, some emails are just not worthy of a response.  Resist the urge to send a follow-up email to every message you get…because you will inevitably get a response back from the other end too!

2 – Thank You and Just You!

When replying to a message avoid using the “Reply All” unless it is something that needs to go to everyone.  The best example of this is when someone hits “Reply All” to say thank you to one person.  Did the other 20 people need that email in their inbox?

3 – Minimize the # of People You Copy

For some odd reason, people tend to address as many people as possible on email.  Maybe they think they are “communicating better” or maybe it makes them feel important.  But, copying everyone from the CEO to the janitorial staff is just begging for more email.  Only include the minimum number of addressees who need to see your message.  Otherwise, you will find yourself getting email back from people who really didn’t need to be involved in the first place.

4 – Reach Out and Touch Someone

Many people hide behind email to avoid actual social interaction.  They will fire off 4 emails instead of taking the 2 minutes to walk down the hall.   Just like the old advertising slogan, I teach my team to “Reach out and touch someone” if the person is in the building.  It is amazing what can be accomplished in a 2 minute conversation versus a 20 part email chain.  It can make all the difference.

5 – Don’t Participate in Spam

It should go without saying, but if you want less email, then do not engage in spam or associate with those who do.  If your friends and co-workers know that you like the latest joke or Internet video, then you will suddenly find yourself receiving more than ever.

6 – Don’t Engage in Flame Wars

Avoid email squabbles.  From the simple “Tit-for-tat” to the all out “Flame War,” email is a bad medium for arguing.  When the conversation reaches this level of disagreement, it is time to take it offline.  And as a bonus tip, don’t forget that anything you type online can come back to haunt you.  (Just ask Zuckerberg…)

7 – Unsubscribe From Ads

Just because you bought your last airline ticket from them does not mean that you need 3X a week mailings about their latest fluctuating prices.  Turn off or unsubscribe from these ad emails.  You really don’t need the latest Zappos specials in your work inbox.  Each of these emails is an interruption that wastes time.  BTW, some unscrupulous marketers make it difficult to unsubscribe.  Don’t waste your time fighting their online system, just add them to your spam list to automatically block them.

8 – The Law of Reciprocity

This one is elementary, but the more you send…the more you are going to get.  If you are one of those people who blasts off emails like you are playing Missile Command, consider throttling back a little.  Your inbox will thank you.

Less email, more productivity

Some people worry that cutting back on email will keep them from getting their work done.  But, to the contrary, less email will free you up to be more productive.

Try cutting back on your email stream and see what impact it has on your workload.

What are your best email practices?  Can you keep up with your email?

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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5 thoughts on “8 Guidelines To Minimize Your Email

  1. Awesome tips Craig!

    I would add set up strategic filters. For instance, I have filters that separate my Facebook notifications from the rest of my email. I also had a filter for a while that would make an email copy and put it into my “waiting for” file anytime I cc'd myself to my own email. This made it much faster to follow up on basic emails without manually adding them to a separate list.

    For work email, when triaging a big inbox in Outlook after being offline for a day or more, I view the emails by thread instead of straight chronological order. Oftentimes, I can then skim through whole threads much faster (sometimes just reading the top one) because I'm looking at conversations instead of trying to piece together timelines and disjointed bits of dialogue.

  2. Yep – i agree.

    and dont keep looking in the inbox all the time.
    some people have a pop-up window or even some kind of sound when they get email.

    I check my email 3 times a day, morning, noon and at the end of the workday.

    and i also ask myself this:
    what am i going to do with this email?
    is it someting i have to respond to?
    do i just have to keep it?
    ok i read it, now i can throw it

    then i put it in one of my “boxes”
    “action”, something i have to do with it
    “ref”, something that might come in handy later sometime
    or the trash 😉

    I really like T.M.N.C
    almost like teenage mutant ninja turtle <LOL>


  3. Great thoughts, Tekla!

    I have always avoided the email “filter” technique. For me, I turn off notifications and other repeat emails. Also, I use a todo list that allows me to email items to it, so I avoid sending emails to myself. (Check out http://www.Goodtodo.com)

    Great tip about taking care of entire email threads at a time!

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Hardy… I agree! Most people need to turn off the email notification.

    Drives me nuts when someone is presenting on a projector in a meeting and their emails keep popping up on the screen. 🙂