Although likely the most essential tool in modern business, few are skilled at properly handling their inbox. The tips below will equip you with the knowledge necessary to ensure your email is an asset and not an impediment. So go ahead, read on and take back control of your inbox… in ninja-like fashion.
Ask questions, but keep them simple.
Studies have shown people are more likely to respond to information requests if they are easy to address, regardless if the content is important or trivial. Important yet complex messages that require a lot of effort to answer often don’t get a response. Make your messages as easy to respond to as possible and throw out open-ended questions entirely.
Use links instead of attachments.
Use Dropbox or Google Drive to simplify file sharing. This way, when someone updates a file the new version is immediately viewable to all with access. Attachments are static, laying the groundwork for an email crossfire containing many different iterations of the same document. Link to the cloud and avoid the hassle.
Always be as clear and concise as possible.
As an exercise, try to convey why you’re writing in the subject or first line of the message and learn how to be as specific as possible to achieve the results you are looking for. Are you looking to set a time to meet with the person? Give them three potential meeting times to choose from. Need a document signed or reviewed? Attach the document and provide clear instructions. If you know something is going to take several emails to get to the bottom of, it will save everyone involved time if you call instead.
Lay off the CCs.
Remember that for each individual you add, you’re drastically extending the message response time, in addition to taking time out of that person’s day. Carefully review each recipient you include and whether the information is actually necessary for them to receive.
Don’t send a message if it doesn’t contain valuable content.
Responses like “Thank You” will just extend the conversation, wasting additional time after the business has concluded. In business, you’re writing to prompt an action. Does your email ask the reader to do anything? If not, why are you sending it?
When responding to messages, be sure to answer all questions asked.
Failing to do so will result in an extended conversation, wasting additional time you don’t have.
Don’t let email interrupt you.
For every new email distracting an employee, about 5 minutes is wasted. Turn off audible and visual alerts for new mail. Instead, set up scheduled times (no more frequently than every 45 minutes) to check your inbox and handle new messages rather than being distracted each time a message comes in. When checking your inbox, deal with, delegate or delete each email that has just come in to avoid the wasted time later on.
Once you have fine-tuned the tactics above, congratulations! You’ll be well on your way to being a true email ninja – exceptionally efficient, remarkably skilled, supremely effective and as elusive as needed.