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Five Simple Yet Effective Tips for Managing Your Email

Five Simple Yet Effective Tips for Managing Your Email


    Everyone nowadays gets way too many emails and spends too much time dealing with them. If you feel like you are wasting too much time on email, you need re-evaluate how you manage it. Here are five simple tips to help you regain control over your inbox so you can do more important (and fun) things.

    1. Keep it under six sentences

    Nobody likes to read long emails. As more people are checking their emails on their phones and tablets, you need to be succinct with what you write.

    Try to keep it brief by using no more than six sentences. This will force you to get to the point. If you need more sentences – consider calling the person or having a face-to-face meeting to communicate your thoughts.

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    2. Make it second priority

    Don’t be a slave to your inbox. If you are, someone else has power of how effective your days are and that’s a recipe for disaster. The issue with people treating their inbox as their to-do list is that external people have direct control on how you go through your day and what your workload will be. Instead, you should be the one in control.

    Here is an easy way to get started with this: don’t check your email first thing in the morning. Make it the second thing – after you have done your most important task.

    This first simple step allows to take back control over your day. Even if email is very important to you, give this a try. If that means post-posing checking your email by half an hour – do it. That is plenty of time to do one important task.

    3. Don’t always respond instantly

    Email is not the best medium for urgent matters – that’s where phone calls excel. However, email is great for correspondence where you don’t require an immediate response.

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    That’s why you want to make it a habit to not always respond to emails immediately. The idea is that you do not want to condition others that email is an effective medium for urgent matters. If the other person notices that you always respond to email within ten minutes, that person will start to assume he or she can email you for urgent matters.

    No.

    You want to avoid that as much as possible. Be upfront with people when you communicate a lot via email. I always tell others that they will get a response from me within two business days. If they need to reach me for something urgent, they can call or text me. Otherwise, I prefer to receive emails.

    4. Email hotspots

    If you constantly checking your email and you process your email as they come in, you are wasting a lot of time. Instead, you should check your email in batches. Batching tasks is an effective way of processing and getting things done that are similar in nature. That’s why you should do this as well as part of how you manage your emails. Here is a simple tip to do that:

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    Check emails at fixed times and spend no more than half an hour each time.

    I like to call this concept “email hotspots” – the times of the day when you process your email in batches. This requires you to turn off your email program and to learn that it is okay to process emails at fixed times each day.

    This guidelines is flexible depending on how many emails you get. If you get less than thirty emails a day, checking your email twice in a day should be good enough. In a typical 9-to-5 day, 10am (you have an hour to do one task before checking your email) and 3pm are great times to do this.

    5. Touch it once

    The touch it once principle says that each item should only be handled once. This is especially the case for emails. Have you ever read an email, thought about replying back, postponed it and you had to reread the email again to understand what it was about? It happens to the best of us.

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    Doing this for one email is fine. What if you have to do this with twenty emails? You will be wasting a lot of time. It’s more effective to deal with emails as you read them for the first time. Don’t let emails linger around “for later”. Touch it once. Read and decide what to do right away with it. If it takes less than two minutes to respond, do it right away.

    If you have to respond but for some reason you can’t – put the email in the drafts folder. This folder will have all the emails you’ve started to reply to, but have not sent yet. As you come back to it, you know where to find your email and you can promptly respond.

    (Photo credit: Businessman Working on Email via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on April 11, 2019

    How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

    How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

    Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.

    I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.

    I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.

    Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

    How Communication Skills Help Your Success

    Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

    Create a Positive Experience

    Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:

    When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.

    What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.

    Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.

    As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.

    Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.

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    Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.

    Help Leadership Skills

    It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.

    Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.

    As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.

    Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?

    If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.

    Build Better Teams

    Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.

    In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.

    If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.

    When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.

    Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.

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    How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

    There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.

    Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!

    1. Listen

    Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:

    Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.

    People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.

    Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.

    Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost.

    2. Know Your Audience

    Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.

    Here is a good way to think about it:

    Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!

    You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.

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    3. Minimize

    I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.

    He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.

    Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.

    State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather too.

    The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.

    4. Over Communicate

    So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.

    What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:

    Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.

    Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.

    Finally we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.

    There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.

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    5. Body Language

    The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.

    When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.

    In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.

    When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.

    Conclusion

    Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly in the workplace.

    Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.

    There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

    Now go communicate your way to success.

    More Resources About Effective Communication

    Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com

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