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Four ways email can save time

Sep 28, 2018

By Ed Heffernan

What did the 90s give us? The Spice Girls, text messages, the PlayStation and… email!

Although widely seen as an incredible technological innovation and business ‘enabler’, I’m sure we all have our own views on how email helps or hinders our working lives. It can be one of the day’s biggest black holes for time and has been widely cited as a contributor to employee over-connectivity. Often taking far longer than picking up the phone and communicating the same message, email management in itself is a hot topic in workplace productivity.

Let’s have a look at how it can help you to save time.

Document meeting actions

Email is an excellent way of recording notes which you can then access at a click of a search button and store in folders linking to the corporate cloud. In a meeting, set up your email and type in actions agreed and click send. You don't need to type up a document for your files and then an email. Just tidy up your email and send to your fellow cohorts.

Use your subject line to communicate the type and urgency of response required

Use your subject line to flag the action required and a deadline. By doing this, even if the reader clicks in and out of the email, the presence of a call-to-action subject line in one’s inbox demands action. It also clarifies the purpose of the email straight away and allows people who have allocated time to action emails to work it within their existing work plan.

Keep it short

There’s a tendency to do a lot of small talk in an email. There’s also a tendency to use casual language, which sometimes lacks clarity and often skirts around the point. Try to keep your email to one window pane. A basic rule of thumb: if you have to scroll, it’s probably too long.

Use email appropriately

Unfortunately, even if communicated precisely, messages can be misconstrued via email. Actions, or requests for information, may be straightforward, but don’t be tempted to use email as a crutch for conversations that should be held face-to-face or over the phone. For example, negative feedback may come across as being far harsher over email than in person and does not give the person the opportunity to respond. Likewise, you may spend hours agonising over a correctly worded email when the conversation could have been held in 20 minutes.

The message is, use email for its purpose. The clue is in the title; it’s ‘mail’ not ‘chat’, so don’t waste time using it for something other than its intended purpose. It is a great way to connect with people but don’t think of it as a replacement for phone or face-to-face contact.

Ed Heffernan is Managing Partner of Barden.