10 ways to improve email communications
1. Eliminate it! If there is one way to avoid it, do! This especially applies to email communications between people in the same building.
2. Treat it as just a faster alternative to snail mail. Try to use it only to send information and documents.
3. Do not use email if it makes things more inefficient or depressive than they already are! Make this a rule!
4. If it’s too late and you’re already caught in email communications, do not use it for discussions! It’s not suitable for it. If discussions ensue, schedule a conference call or a quick meeting.
5. If you write, keep in very short: this is what I think (we should do, etc.), this is why and this is what I expect from you in your response….or some similar structure. I love the idea of keeping it less than 5 sentences: http://five.sentenc.es/
6. Make these first 5 points a rule in your organization especially if you work across multiple countries; this way nobody from Eastern Europe for example will get offended if they don’t receive emails like they were written by lawyers. If you are at it, why not to create a specific, well defined room for email within the arsenal of other tools, like meetings, phone calls, SMSs, collaboration tools, social stuff (fb, etc.), walks, etc. If there is a policy worth having, how to use these tools is one. Works for Evernote for example.
7. Always update the subject line to reflect the most recent developments!
8. Answer all the questions and think one step ahead: accommodate! Example for how to do it wrong: “how’s Wednesday for lunch? I am free anytime” “Wednesday sounds good!” Example of how to do it right: “how’s Wednesday for lunch at 12 in Gino’s?” OR “how’s Wednesday for lunch? I am free anytime.” “Wednesday sounds great. See you at 12 @ Gino’s!” We know that the Wrong scenario is more common! STOP being lazy or playing games!
9. When it’s important or you feel emotional, don’t send it out right away: sleep on it and see how it looks the next morning!
10. Create an organizational culture where you don’t need to use bcc!
+ 1, the Bonus: if you haven’t read Ogilvy’s advice on writing in general, read it! Most of it applies: http://bit.ly/w5EfoQ