If you and your boss are typical, you probably spend hours every day handling email. And you probably have dozens, if not hundreds, of email messages languishing in your inbox right now.
Chris Anderson, who runs the high-profile TED conference, believes we need to focus on limiting the flow of email, rather than focusing on how to organize and file all those messages.
Anderson penned 10 ideas that could make a dent in email quantity.
Since email overload is something we’re “inadvertently doing to each other,” writes Anderson, “you can’t solve this problem acting alone.”
That’s why you, your co-workers, your boss and everyone should read the 10 ideas in Anderson’s charter (http://e-mailcharter.org), sign it and share it with others:
1. Respect recipients’ time. Minimize the time it takes someone to process the messages you send, even if it means taking more time to send.
Tip: Edit mercilessly. Can you say the same thing in fewer words? Is the message better delivered with a phone call? Can you create bullets to make a message scannable?
2. Cut each other some slack. Short or slow is not rude. If it takes time for you to receive a response, don’t take it personally.
3. Celebrate clarity. For example, start with a subject line that clearly labels the topic. Clue in the recipient by starting the subject with the words Info, Action, Time Sensitive or Low Priority. Avoid strange fonts and colors.
4. Quash open-ended questions. For example, instead of asking “How can I help?” offer the recipient an easier-to-answer question: “Can I help best by (a) calling (b) visiting or (c) staying out of it?”
5. Slash surplus cc’s. Don’t default to “Reply All.” Maybe you need to cc only a couple of people on the original thread.
6. Tighten the thread. Before forwarding a long email conversation, cut what’s irrelevant so the recipient can quickly see what matters.
7. Attack attachments. Can you paste text into the email rather than sending as an attachment? Are you using logos or signatures that appear as attachments?
8. Give these gifts: EOM NNTR. Can you fit your message into the subject line? Then do it. Follow with “EOM” (End of Message). Ending a note with “No need to respond” is a wonderful act of generosity.
9. Stop sending contentless responses. Be judicious in your use of email responses that merely say “Great” or “Thanks.”
10. Disconnect. If we all agreed to spend less time sending email, we’d all get less email. Spend a day email free. Or set up an auto-response that references your commitment to this charter.
— Adapted from E-Mail Charter, Chris Anderson, e-mailcharter.org.