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11 Things About Email You Might Not Know That Are Making You Awkward

11 Things About Email You Might Not Know That Are Making You Awkward

Are you aware of your email manners? Are you sure you’re not doing anything awkward when sending emails? Wait But Why has the answer here.

Email is one of those things that’s just a part of your life, period. Most of us know someone who has closed their Facebook account or refused to join in the first place in a little foot-stomping stand by their ego, and you might even know someone who is thrilled with themselves for not owning a smartphone.

But within the adult internet-using world, no one is allowed to not have email.

Not having email today would be the equivalent of not having a phone number—you’d have to bereally doing your own thing to go there.

And so here we all are, typing things into compose windows, battling down our inboxes, and it’s going pretty well—but like any world of social interaction, email has its difficulties.

Let’s discuss 11 particularly awkward things about our email lives—

1) Exchanges that have an unequal power dynamic.

unequal

    If someone you’re emailing with:

    • is making typos and you’re not
    • is skipping punctuation and you’re not
    • is skipping capitals and you’re not
    • is taking a long time to reply and you’re not
    • is responding to your long, well-written emails with much shorter responses

    Then they hate you.

    Unequal email power dynamics can happen for many reasons—a professional ladder discrepancy, an age discrepancy, a “customer’s always right” situation, a thing where many people are all emailing one person—but usually, it’s that the person writing the high-quality email wants/needs something from the person writing the low-quality email. Simple as that.

    2) Emailing with un-tech savvy Baby Boomers.

    Not all Baby Boomers—you know who I’m talking about.

    They’re the last remaining people with AOL email addresses. They scan a hard copy of an article and email it as an attachment instead of emailing a link to the article. They write the word e-mail with a hyphen in it. And they don’t know that “replying to all” is a thing that can happen in the world:

    reply to all 1 reply to all 2 reply to all 3 reply to all 4 reply to all 5 reply to all 6

      Sometimes, you’ll come across the especially un-tech savvy Baby Boomer who inexplicably writes their emails in all caps.

      all caps

        3) Emailing with anyone born before 1930.

        OLD

          To my grandmother, who tells me that her “machine is broken” when the browser window has accidentally been minimized, words like “forward” and “attachment” and “link” don’t have simple, concrete definitions—they’re just vague, complex ideas that she’s heard of but doesn’t understand.

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          She feels about email the way I feel about this sentence:

          Central banks in developing countries are tightening policy and intervening in currency markets in response to concerns about the potential effect of currency depreciation on inflation, though gross issuance of nonfinancial corporate bonds and commercial paper have slowed and interest volatility has substantially diminished, possibly suggesting that reaching-for-yield behavior might be increasing again.

          If you weren’t far too lazy to write a letter, it would be a good idea to stick to hand-written correspondence with people born in the 1920s, especially since there’s the side benefit that a letter from someone born in the 1920s will be a cool thing to own in 50 years.

          4) The group email chain Late Responder.

          late responder 1 late responder 2 late responder 3 late responder 4

            5) Figuring out how to address a minor friend in an email greeting.

            To make things easy, we at some point all agreed upon certain rules and regulations for how to address various categories of people that we email.

            Greeting

              Notice the problem?

              “Hi ____” is friendly in a distant, neutral, professional way for everyone you don’t know well. When your relationship with someone takes a step forward, it graduates to the warmer, more casual Hey Zone. And with really close people, you can just skip the greeting altogether—no one starts an email with “Hey Mom”.

              But how about that green zone category of people who are more than acquaintances—so greeting them with “Hey” would seem too formal and distant—but you don’t talk to them enough to just out of the blue email them and start talking without a greeting? How the hell are you supposed to start an email to that friend from college you talk to every two years or that old work colleague you became friends with and then fell mostly out of touch with?

              It’s not easy. And unlike all the other greetings, this one requires creativity. Some possibilities:

              – Hey John! — The exclamation point says, “This isn’t a normal Hey greeting—I’m smiling and extra excited because we’re pretty close, and our relationship is a positive thing in my life.”

              – Johnny! — A typical response greeting to the “Hey John!” email. It’s acknowledging that you’re on nickname terms, and also joining the celebration of your friendship with the exclamation point.

              – Hey man — This is something guy acquaintances or minor friends do to deal with being in the green zone. It’s the greeting version of a friendly back slap.

              – Sammmm — A girl tool to deal with the green zone.

              – Heyyy — The extra Y’s say, “Just swinging by to say something, and we’re friends so sometimes we just swing by.

              greeting2

                5b) Figuring out how to sign-off in an email to a minor friend.

                Similar situation. For the distant people, we have all sorts of autofills—Best, Regards, Talk soon, Take care, Thanks, etc.—and the really close people need no sign-off at all. But for minor friends, we’ve got another whole song and dance on our hands.

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                I’ll sometimes finish a minor friend email with something like, “Thanks,” and then look at it and think, “Ugh it’s too formal.” I then sigh, put the cursor at the end of the word, and begrudgingly type in two more S’s.

                It’s also worth noting that some people have decided that xoxo is an appropriate sign off because they’re just that adorable, and others just decided to start signing off with only the first letter of their name, because apparently we’re now dating. To me, both sign-offs make me think the person looks like this when they’re typing it:

                xoxo

                  6) Saying Robot Phrases, which reminds you that you’re not actually that unique a person.

                  A Robot Phrase is a commonly used email phrase that you end up using just because everyone else is using it and you’re not that creative a person.

                  robot phrases

                    These cookie-cutter Robot Phrases remind me of my voicemail recording being “Hi, you’ve reached Tim. Please leave a message.” The next thing that comes on is an actual robot that says “At the tone, please record your message yada yada,” and she and I are doing an equal job of expressing our individuality—but unfortunately, the only other option is to be an unnecessary weirdo by doing something surprising.

                    Email Robot Phrases are not quite as socially required as Voicemail Robot Recordings, but most of us are too lazy to deal with thinking up alternatives. Every single time I type one, though, I feel a slight twinge of self-loathing for being such a societal cog.

                    7) Mastering the exclamation point chess match.

                    With in-person interaction, we have a million subtle ways to express tone. Even on the phone, without the use of facial expressions or mannerisms, tone of voice gets the job done sufficiently.

                    But over email, we’re stuck with a crude set of symbols as our tools to express nuance, making punctuation a critical part of the email world. A few guidelines:

                    Some people don’t use exclamation points, and with those people, it’s safe to stick with periods.

                    periods

                      Others use them constantly, and with those people you’re a huge dick if you don’t, so you’re forced to join the party.

                      exclamations

                        This is important because to a rampant exclamation point user, the difference between a period and an exclamation point looks like this.

                        exclamation period

                          There’s also the rare but disastrous exclamation point / question mark mixup typo.

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                          exclamation question

                            I can go either way with exclamation points and tend to just follow the other person’s lead, but I find that this is a pretty strong correlation:

                            exclamation graph

                              Ellipses are a whole other thing. Some people use them to be mysterious or threatening, and of course, they can be massively slutty.

                              ellipses

                                8) The epic correspondence that neither involved party wants to be a part of.

                                epic correspondence

                                  This is a very odd phenomenon unique to email. It happens when two not-that-good friends find themselves stuck in the mutually-obligated chore of writing long descriptions of their lives to each other every few months. Both parties dread having to answer all the last email’s questions and write a lengthy life description, and each is pretty bored by the process of reading the other’s.

                                  This cycle either goes on until one of the people dies, or sometimes, someone finally gathers the guts to just not respond to the other’s email and then both parties can sigh a deep breath of relief.

                                  9) Trying to shove the concept of laughter into the email medium.

                                  haha

                                    Laughter is a delightful part of vocal correspondence, so we’ve decided we need to figure out a way to express the same thing over email—but it’s awkward.

                                    Absurd people who say lol aside, here’s what we’re dealing with:

                                    haha — I found this either mildly funny or not funny at all

                                    hahaha — I found this a little funny

                                    hahahaha — I found this reasonably funny

                                    HA or HAHA or HAHAHAHA — I found this very funny

                                    hahah or hahahah — I’m a very subpar human

                                    At least in my world, I find that when something is actually funny, it’ll result in capital letters.

                                    And in almost all of these cases, the recipient pictures the sender actually laughing as they type, when in fact they probably look like the guy in the picture above.

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                                    10) The fact that hurtful things are happening to you and you’re not thinking about it.

                                    hurtful

                                      Being humored by fake haha’s is just the beginning.

                                      You know how people sometimes BCC someone on an email they’re writing to secretly loop them in? You know what you don’t consider? The times when you’ve received an email from someone and there’s a BCC happening unbeknownst to you—when you’re the chump being spied on. Kind of upsetting right?

                                      How about the fact that you’re part of a number of group email chains, some one-time things and some that are recurring—and you kind of just assume that those are the only group chains happening. When in fact, there are a number of group chains between various friends or family members of yours that you are not included on, whose existence you never really consider.

                                      Worse, think about a time you’ve forwarded an email you received to someone else for mocking purposes. Kind of mean, but you’ve also kind of done it right? How bad is it that at some point, you’ve been the subject of the secret mocking forward?

                                      Luckily, we tend to avoid assuming these things are happening. But they’re happening.

                                      11) Email disasters.

                                      disaster
                                        disaster 2

                                          The email disaster is a special kind of disaster. It can be mortifying, hurtful, or even friendship-damaging.

                                          Examples include:

                                          – Emailing Person X to say something bad about Person Y and accidentally emailing it to Person Y instead.

                                          – Replying just to Person X on a group chain to say something private and accidentally replying to all.

                                          – Forwarding an email to someone and forgetting that below the email is a whole correspondence chain that has something sensitive in it, maybe even about the person you just forwarded it to.

                                          – Sending an attachment to someone and accidentally attaching the wrong horrifying thing.

                                          Other people’s email disaster stories are a great source of schadenfreude—so if you have a good one, please share in the comments.

                                          If you liked this article, subscribe by email to have Wait But Why’s once-a-week posts sent to you by email. Never any spam.
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                                          Anna Chui

                                          Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the editor of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

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                                          Published on January 16, 2019

                                          How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

                                          How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

                                          We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

                                          You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

                                          You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

                                          That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

                                          Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

                                          1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

                                          Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

                                          We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

                                          To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

                                          At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

                                          The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

                                          2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

                                          Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

                                          The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

                                          In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

                                          It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

                                          It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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                                          So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

                                          • Are you a great strategist?
                                          • Are you an effective planner?
                                          • Is Project Management your strength?
                                          • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
                                          • Are you the ideas person?
                                          • Is Implementation your strength?

                                          Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

                                          3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

                                          One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

                                          Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

                                          Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

                                          Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

                                          4. Take Time for Planning

                                          “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

                                          One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

                                          You can take the time to think about:

                                          • What’s the purpose of the project?
                                          • How Important is it?
                                          • When does it need to be delivered by?
                                          • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
                                          • What are the KPIs?
                                          • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
                                          • Who is working on this project?
                                          • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
                                          • What tolerances can I add in?
                                          • What are the review stages?
                                          • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

                                          Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

                                          5. Focus on Priorities

                                          Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

                                          Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

                                          One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

                                          1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
                                          2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
                                          3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
                                          4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

                                          James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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                                            The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

                                            If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

                                            If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

                                            6. Take Time Out

                                            To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

                                            If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

                                            Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

                                            In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

                                            Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

                                            7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

                                            Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

                                            I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

                                            Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

                                            If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

                                            8. Stop Multitasking

                                            Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

                                            So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

                                            When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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                                            If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

                                            9. Work in Blocks of Time

                                            To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

                                            I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

                                            Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

                                            Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

                                            Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

                                            Then take another 10-minute break.

                                            Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

                                            By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

                                            10. Get Rid of Distractions

                                            Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

                                            “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

                                            Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

                                            If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

                                            11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

                                            You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

                                            Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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                                            Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

                                            12. Take a Time Audit

                                            Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

                                            Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

                                            You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

                                            Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

                                            Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

                                            At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

                                            If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

                                            13. Protect Your Confidence

                                            It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

                                            When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

                                            Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

                                            When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

                                            Final Words

                                            A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

                                            The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

                                            If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

                                            Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

                                            Reference

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