Post Academic


Conquering Your Inbox: Changing Your Email Habits

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionA few days ago, I offered advice that helps channel all your emails to one account and gives you more control over finding emails that you need. That will only go so far, however, unless you change some of your email habits so you can make emailing more productive. For starters,

Convert emails to actions. Anyone who knows GTD is going to know this. An email is worthless if it’s just sitting in your inbox. Determine the next step. For example, if someone sends an email talking about a massive work backup, do you need to take steps to hire a new person on your team? And what’s the first step to reach that goal?

Don’t reply immediately. There’s a rule that you should let something you just wrote marinate for a while before you start editing it. Other people’s ideas should marinate as well. You might need to get something done right-now-this-minute, but it always helps if you give the whole team a chance to chime in. Someone might volunteer for the job, or someone else might quash the task. Don’t waste your time until you see how the situation plays out.

More after the jump! Image from the German Federal Archive, Wikimedia Commons.

Ask for a face-to-face meeting. So the thread is continuing on, eh? Or someone just broke out a verbal flame-thrower? At that moment, you suggest a face-to-face meeting. You don’t have to write, “We act like children online, so let’s meet in person and act like adults” because that will set someone off even more, but you can say you have to go, and you’d like to continue the subject another time. Emphasize the in person part.

Once you raise the stakes and suggest a meeting, the issue will either be dropped or will become far less important. E-mail and IM are easy. That’s why people unleash their id without thinking first, or they mouth off when they haven’t done their homework. Push for an in-person meeting. Suggest hosting it yourself. Everyone else will be so appalled and possibly scared by the initiative that you’ll never hear of it again.

One last note: Use the urgent exclamation point sparingly. You may be tempted to mark an email you send as urgent, but think long and hard before you add an exclamation point to your email. If you send it, and the task turns out not to be as urgent as you thought, people will not take your emails as seriously, whether you mark them as urgent or not.

For Friday: The final installment of the series, on email etiquette, or how to avoid becoming a BCC cautionary tale!

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2 Responses to 'Conquering Your Inbox: Changing Your Email Habits'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'Conquering Your Inbox: Changing Your Email Habits'.


  1. Amen to the face-to-face. It drives me up a wall when people want to have in-depth convos or snarky exchanges on email. It’s just not the right venue sometimes!

  2. russ said,

    agree if we all converted our E-mails to actions==well, thee would be alot less emails.


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