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75 Common Email Mistakes You’re Probably Making at Work

75 Common Email Mistakes You’re Probably Making at Work

You’ve always wondered, right? Just what kind of mistakes are you making every day with your emails?

Well, don’t worry, I’ve put together this list of 75 common email mistakes so you can see what you’re guilty of. Let’s get started:

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Netiquette

  1. You don’t use basic greetings. Don’t forget to start with “Hello”, “Hi”, “Dear”, etc.
  2. You use ambiguous subject lines or avoid them altogether. State exactly what you want in your subject line and make it easier for people to find your emails later on.
  3. You send every email with the high-priority flag. Only use this when it’s urgent.
  4. You expect people to reply to your emails immediately and send them follow up emails when they don’t. Remember, email is a slower form of communication.
  5. You hit Reply All when you meant to hit Reply. Always check before you send.
  6. You mix up the difference between To and CC. To is for people who need to take action; CC is for people who need to be kept in the know.
  7. You CC hundreds of people when a BCC is more appropriate. Be sure to use BCC when you’re sending general emails to people who don’t know each other.
  8. You close emails abruptly. It doesn’t hurt to say thank you, sincerely, best regards or some other polite close.
  9. Your email doesn’t include contact information. Add this to your signature as soon as possible.
  10. You’ve got a really long signature. Shorten your email if you can, and consider if all that legalese is really necessary.

Writing

  1. You send incomplete emails. Take a few more minutes to finish what you’re writing.
  2. You ask people open-ended questions on email. This can cause discussions that are best had elsewhere.
  3. You use complicated sentences and words that recipients have to look up. Use everyday language.
  4. You use TXT speak, poor punctuation and bad grammar in your emails to your boss. Instead, type full sentences that make sense.
  5. You send emails in ALL CAPS to your colleagues. Stop shouting at me!
  6. You include content in the body of an email when the subject line is a closed-ended question, e.g., “Lunch at one?”
  7. You ask an open-ended question in the subject line and don’t include explanatory content in the body of the email, e.g., “I’m hungry. What will we do?”
  8. You don’t spellcheck or proofread your emails. Hint: those red squiggly lines normally mean there’s something wrong.
  9. Your write lengthy paragraphs and expect people to read them. Instead, write summaries and use bullet points whenever possible.
  10. You think unusual fonts keeps things interesting. Stick to Arial, Times New Roman or your company’s default font. And just use a variation of black; it’s easier to read.

Helping Your Colleagues

  1. You send large attachments and then wonder why other people don’t get them. Save them on the network, use cloud storage or compress them instead.
  2. You don’t send people updates about important projects that they’re involved in. Keep your colleagues in the loop.
  3. You send too many updates about unimportant projects that people aren’t involved in. Just keep relevant colleagues in the loop.
  4. You send emails when you need information urgently. A phone call, instant message or a conversation are all better and faster.
  5. You return to your desk after a break and reply to your emails one by one without checking them all first. You can save everyone time by reading all your emails first.
  6. You send the person beside you an email and then ask them verbally if they’ve received it yet.
  7. You spend hours filling an email with helpful information. Instead, write a blog post or update the company wiki so everyone can benefit.
  8. You send along chain emails because they’re a good way to pass the time. These are best kept for personal email accounts and even then, I’d avoid them.
  9. You hate email chains (that’s fine), and you don’t respond to important ones because you missed them (not fine).
  10. You don’t respect the time of the people you’re sending emails to. Keep your emails short and to the point.
  11. You use email Read Receipts. Most people find this annoying and even rude. Avoid!
  12. You use email to ask people questions, when the answers are available through a quick Google search.
  13. You forget to tell recipients what you want in your email. Say what you want in the subject line or the first line.
  14. You send steamy emails to colleagues that you’re having an affair with. You know the company can probably access your emails, right? Word will get around, so don’t be so unprofessional.
  15. You send steamy emails to colleagues that you’re not having an affair with. Ditto for point 14, with an added serve of sexual harassment charges.

Being Professional

  1. You don’t reply to your boss’s emails. Always reply to your boss.
  2. You swear or forward inappropriate attachments to colleagues via email. Remember that you’re at work before you send.
  3. You mix up personal emails with business emails. Keep them in separate accounts.
  4. You answer emails immediately and outside of office hours. Don’t give people the impression that you’re always available.
  5. You send emails when you’re drunk. Sober up first!
  6. You mistake long emails with being thorough.
  7. You mistake short emails with rudeness.
  8. You send an email to your team and CC the client on it. Keep client communications separate.
  9. You love sending pointless attachments like pictures of your cat, where you went on holidays and what you’re having for dinner. If you must, only send these to friends.
  10. You respond to emails when you’re angry. Count to 10 and take a deep breath first.

Productivity Drains

  1. You receive dozens of (unnecessary) notification emails every day from the various services that you use. Turn these off wherever possible.
  2. You haven’t read the Email Charter. Yes! There’s a charter.
  3. You pursue a Zen-like working environment, within which you focus on one task without stopping to check email. Like it or not, work will arrive through email; have a system for managing it.
  4. You phone notifies you via an audible ding every time you receive an email. Turn this off if you want to keep focused.
  5. You use email as your To-Do list. Keep your To-Do lists separate using apps like Wunderlist, Reminders or Asana.
  6. You constantly stop what you’re doing to see if you have new email. Instead, check email every hour or every other hour.
  7. Your inbox says you’ve 13,463 unread emails and you’re OK about it. Learn inbox zero or go bankrupt.
  8. Email is where your work goes to die. Stop it!
  9. You haven’t implemented inbox zero. This takes an hour or two to learn, but it will save you time.
  10. You practice inbox zero when you’re sitting on the toilet. No, stop that too!

Security

  1. You send passwords and other sensitive information via email. If you have to do this, encrypt the information first.
  2. You use the same password for your email and for all of your other accounts or …
  3. You don’t change your password regularly. Instead, get into the habit of changing your passwords once a month. And track them.
  4. You haven’t enabled 2-Step Verification on your public email accounts. Do this now.
  5. You’re excited to find out you’ve been pre-approved for a US$10,000 credit card that you didn’t apply for.
  6. Despite being warned by your colleagues, you write back to spammers just to be sure.
  7. You forward other people’s emails when there’s sensitive information at the bottom. Read the full chain before you forward.
  8. You don’t use a spyware, virus or adware blocking program. Ask your IT department to install one if they haven’t already.
  9. You give out other people’s phone numbers and addresses via email without their permission. Always check first.
  10. You log in to your email account on a public computer and forget to log out. If you’re going to use your professional email account outside of the office, make sure you are secure.

Email Management

  1. You rely on autofill to populate the address field. Instead, check the contact details are correct before you send.
  2. You send an important email, close Outlook before it finishes syncing with the server and then complain that nobody replied to your email.
  3. You respond to group emails by replying to everybody. Before you send, consider if a reply to one person will do.
  4. You use Gmail and don’t bother learning the keyboard shortcuts. They’re easy to use.
  5. You send file attachments that other people can’t open. Find out what the default applications and file formats in your office are.
  6. Your email isn’t organized into any folders, and you don’t know where anything is. Folders aren’t necessary, but they can help. However, if …
  7. Your email is organized into dozens of folders and you still don’t know where anything is; again, inbox zero can help.
  8. You email around large attachments. Instead, save them on the network, using cloud storage or another collaboration tool.
  9. You make a cup of coffee, put on a set of headphones, close down all your applications and spend an hour typing out that killer email. Don’t treat email like art.
  10. You print out emails and file them carefully in your drawer. That’s what your email archive is for.

Wait, I Thought of One More

You write a list of common email mistakes and realize you still make at least 53 of these mistakes!

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What common email mistakes do you make? Please let me know in the comments section below.

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Featured photo credit: kimubert via flickr.com

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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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