Too Many Emails!
In part two of Outlook Overload we look at the Inbox. Whether you are a believer in Inbox Zero or not, if you work in tech today you will spend more time than you really wish to managing your incoming email. The following bullet points were also created as part of an online reference at my previous assignment. With the permission of my previous employer, I share them here with you. The two parts together formed a wiki document to reference when bringing people in or when either meetings or emails started to get out of hand.
- Do be sure to specify the recipient in the opening of the email if you are responding to a particular party and especially if you are looking for a response from that party. Received emails that don’t seem to be to anyone in particular may not be answered because every party assumes that it is addressed to someone else.
- Do use the To, and CC fields properly to indicate why a recipient is receiving the email. Generally if someone is in the To field, they are expected to actively participate in the thread through replies, etc. If someone is listed only in the CC it is for general knowledge and information sharing, not action taking.
- Do ask to have a Jira* ticket created when someone starts an email thread about an issue or problem that would normally have a ticket in Jira for handling.
- Do look to see if you are being asked to respond directly to the email or if there is an action item that you need to follow up on.
- Do ensure that you use the subject line to convey the subject of the email.
- Do change the subject line if a thread changes to a different topic – or better yet, start a new thread if the topic is email worthy.
- Do re-read your email before you send it to ensure that it is grammatically correct and error free.
- Do be sure that your signature line has all of your contact information.
- Do add “FYI” to the top of an email when you are forwarding it to someone else just for their general knowledge.
- Don’t reply to an email without starting the email with the person’s name to whom you are addressing the email; or starting with “All”, “Team”, etc. when sending to multiple persons.
- Don’t assume that you will get a direct response if it isn’t clear to whom you are seeking a response from.
- Don’t assume that just because someone was cc’d on an email that they are following the whole topic thread and are up to date on all of the details.
Pay it forward!
Following these guidelines will only help so much, I recommend a judicious amount of categorizing and filtering too. The success of these guidelines can only be truly felt when each team member buys into the change in the way they schedule meetings and send email – the more people follow, the greater the benefit.
*Jira is an popular issue tracking tool often used for tracking defects in software. This may not apply to every reader, but it was an important factor in our process flow.