E-mail has been around for a while. And even though we have augmented e-mail communications with newer technologies, like team rooms, and chat and video teleconferencing, e-mail remains, for most businesses, the primary communications mechanism. It has become such a powerful and pervasive component of our communications toolbox that people who sit so close to us that we can hear them type use it to communicate with us.
And the average knowledge worker receives LOTS of e-mails each day. In fact, most of us receive so many that we feel overwhelmed and almost paralyzed when we look at the screen showing how many new mails we have received. Yet despite e-mail’s ubiquity and popularity, users, in general, are not proficient at its use. So here are ten tips to help you make the most out of this critical business tool… without letting it consume you.
1. Get the right fit.
Firstly, you need to determine if e-mail is the right vehicle for your communication. It is – if and only if – if meets at least one of these criteria:
„h The content of the communication needs to be documented.
„h The recipient is unavailable (by phone, instant messaging or in person), not co-located or in a different time zone
„h It is not time-sensitive.
„h There are multiple recipients who are not co-located or available simultaneously. (Read the caution below in Number 3 about broadcasting e-mails).
„h The subject does not require a lot of back and forth discussion.
Even if you decide that e-mail is the right medium, don’t create a mail or respond too quickly or emotionally to e-mails you receive. “Sometimes the phone is better for difficult interactions. You need the personal contact to resolve matters and certainly don’t want to document things in ways you may later wish you hadn’t said.” cautions Janet Jordan, communications expert at Keynote Communications in Boston.
2. What’s my objective, anyway?
As with any business correspondence, before you put finger to key, you should really ask yourself, what is my objective in sending this mail. Is it to inform, persuade, motivate, request action, etc.? Knowing this up front will help you craft an effective e-mail.