Knowledge workers can spend about 40% of their day on email, not just reading and replying, but also searching for an email they want to reference. So it makes sense that we are always looking for ideas to make dealing with email faster.
Here’s one: Get a coach.
The three biggest problems with email are: There’s too much, the quality is low, and we don’t share best practices. Mike Song is an email coach, and author of The Hamster Revolution: How to Manage Your Email Before it Manages You. He spends his days teaching people to overcome these problems.
For example, if you improve quality you get fewer emails back looking for clarification. Here are some ways to write higher quality emails:
1. Write a better subject.
Tell people what kind of mail it is by using descriptions at the front such as: action, info, request, confirmed, or delivery, as in, “Delivery: Bio you requested.”
2. Put the whole message in the subject line.
If it’s short, then the person won’t have to even open the email. But you need to tell someone that the message ends in the subject line, so try marking the end of the message with something like this /EOM
3. Structure the body of your message well.
People are not reading whole messages. They are scanning. If it’s a longer email, put a quick summary up top, and if there is an action required, summarize the action up top. Also, use bullets to describe the background. This will be easier for someone to scan and it will force you to be more concise.
Mike coaches individuals and workplace teams on how to use email more effectively. He has worked with people at Pfizer, Hewlet Packard, and Capital One. What struck me was that he can typically save someone ten full days a year by making them more effective with email.
Some of this saved time comes from the fact that email affects everything you do, because so much of your daily diet of information comes via email. So his recommendations go beyond just the email message itself.
For example, people waste a lot of time looking for information. (I do this, by the way. I had a file of links to use when I wrote about email. Where are they? I don’t know. It took me ten minutes just to find this one at TechDirt.)
Mike describes my problem on the nose: “People have a lot of overlap in terms of the folders they use and then people can’t remember where they put something.”
So I asked him what to do. He recommended just four categories. Which I confess makes me nervous, but I can’t say that my current system of ten thousand folders is working very well…
Okay. So here are the details of the free coaching:
Two different people will get email coaching sessions with Mike. A session lasts about three hours. But (this is sort of a big but) he is going to do it at your company, so you have to be in Connecticut, New York City or Boston to get free coaching from Mike.
Here are some other things. He wants to coach your team – so that you all learn to send email to each other better. Mike says that most people are totally annoyed by each others’ email quirks, and you can decrease a lot of time spent on email by getting teams to work together to send better emails. And, one more thing, any size team is okay, but your team needs to be using Outlook.
If you want to get this free training for you and your team, send an email to me by Sunday, March 11.