Email ... another piece of technology to 'increase your efficiency' and 'save you time'.
I thought I had great time management skills – until yet again I feel like I am consistently swamped by EMAILS ... and people wanting immediate responses!
Email is a fantastic tool but just like any other tool, mastering it requires practice and application.
The volume of emails being sent around the globe each day is mind-boggling. The figure is certainly in the billions and for every email sent, most require some sort of response. The question then is "what is the most efficient way of responding to emails"? What is correct "netiquette"?
Speed of response is singularly the most important. Sending a letter and receiving a reply via snail mail typically took five to 10 days. Faxes reduced this to between a couple of hours and a couple of days. Email technology enables response time to be reduced to seconds, especially with the use of mobile email ... my iPhone is driving me crazy!
I believe your email inbox should be checked at least three times a day; morning, noon and before close of business. If it is too infrequent people get frustrated and for those of you with 24-hour constant access, schedule regular check and response times, otherwise your responses can get out of control. If someone is on the other end, a simple request can become a long conversation.
The ideal response time for emails is during the same business period. That is, if you receive an email overnight or early in the morning, respond to it before lunch. If it is received during the afternoon, reply before close of business.
Sometimes, owing to the complexity of the email and the response required, responding in full may not be possible or desirable. However, what is possible and advisable is a simple one-line acknowledgement that the email has been received and that a response will be forthcoming.
Some offices I know have an automatic response (Out of Office Auto Reply) set up, giving the sender some basic information about when they should expect a returned email.
Be careful whom you want the reply to go to. Embarrassing mistakes have been made where replies have been sent to all recipients of the original email and not just to the sender. OUCH!
The beauty of emails is the general acceptance and use of short, sharp, to the point words and phrases. Bullet points are also effective. If you can use two words instead of 10, do it. Be careful of your tone, because email doesn't have any!
Quoting direct from the original email is also recommended. Simply hit "Reply" and respond within the body of the original email directly after the quote, or cut and paste the sender's words into your responding email.
Another effective way of highlighting your response is to use a different font and/or colour such as blue or red. This directs the original sender straight to your reply.
Another must for emails is a quality signature (or masthead). Most email programs such as and Microsoft's Outlook allow you to set up a range of different email signatures.