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10 Email Mistakes Everyone Should Avoid

10 Email Mistakes Everyone Should Avoid

The way in which Email is used nowadays has changed drastically with the introduction of smartphones and tablets. Many people have moved away from the formality of letter-writing styles in Email to more conversational Instant Messaging uses. However, especially within a Work Environment, it is necessary to make sure you fulfil a certain criteria in order to maintain professionalism. Here are some of the Email mistakes that people make often to really consider.

1. Use greetings and closings.

Too often we are caught off-guard with an Email, and try to respond as quickly as possible by just sending back the information they’ve asked for. However, common courtesy still applies to Email! Make sure you address the person correctly, be it ‘Dear Mr. Miles’ or ‘Hey John,’ —depending on whether it is a colleague, someone you met on a training course, or a client—and make sure you tail off the Email correctly, too. Not only does this help people decipher where the Email starts and stops (especially if you’re Email client shows previous conversations), but it also keeps a little formality and professionalism associated to your persona. People are likely to take you more seriously.

However, especially with closings, you can be a little less formal with these and actually use them as part of the conversation. Consider the following: ‘Thanks for passing on that Information,’ ‘Good luck in your endeavours,’ or ‘Look forward to seeing you next Tuesday.’ All of these don’t necessarily sound as formal as ‘Yours Sincerely,’ or ‘Yours Faithfully,’ but still have the closing appeal of a letter, and offer some form of conclusion to the message you have been writing.

2. Subject is key.

The Subject of an Email is often overlooked, yet it can have such an impact on the delivery of the rest of the message. It is the first thing a person sees regarding your communication, and thus can be used to such a great benefit. You can outline the basic contents of the message, perhaps add a sense of urgency (a deadline to respond), or simply mention that it doesn’t necessarily need to be replied to.

You can guide the way in which you want the recipient to use the email, and by giving them an overall breakdown of the Email can make the contents a little easier to digest. Also, if you have previous conversations, or it is a group email, it can become very confusing if topics of conversation change but the subject line does not: an Email regarding Sales labelled as Human Resources could become very confusing.

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3. The opening paragraph outlines the content.

In your opening paragraph of an Email, always outline the content of the rest of the Email (especially if it’s a long one). This acts as a quick introduction and helps the reader guide through the rest of the content. It also quickly outlines the important information you want the reader to take from the Email. For example, you may open with:

Hey Fred,

I’m just sending you an Email to give you an update of our takings from Q1, and wanted your opinion on the findings.

On the whole, we managed to take…

If this Email was intended to just give information, Fred may not have taken a more critical approach to the figures. However, in asking for his feedback and opinion prior to giving the content, he is likely to read the information more critically and attempt to absorb more of the information. The easiest guide to the opening paragraph would be: Greeting – Outline Content – Desired Outcome. This not only helps the reader, but it helps you plan the content of the Email you are writing, too—so, all in all, is a bit of a win-win.

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4. Play to your audience.

This is very similar to the Tip 1, but more regarding the context of an Email. One of the biggest Email mistakes I’ve seen—especially with regards to my University studies—has been when people Email their professors in the following manner:

Hey John,

Can u send me the feedbaxk?

Thx Rick

Now, although University is probably not a great example due to the informality of many nowadays, there is still a line between informality and disrespect. Depending on who you are talking to, it is necessary to make sure you are communicating in an appropriate manner. If it’s a colleague you get on well with, by all means adapt a more informal stance but remember that if your communications are professional, keep them in a professional manner. This can lead to difficulties in working relationships when the confines of the working environment and the friendship become blurred.

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5. Recognise when Email is and isn’t right.

Sometimes a good old face-to-face chat is really what’s needed. So many times I have seen in the industry people using Email to send negative feedback, or even to tell someone of their redundancy—this just does not sit right within my ethics. If you need to deliver bad news, constructive feedback, or are looking to connect with colleagues and networks, then an email is not the right way to do this. If not face-to-face, maybe a quick phone call, or a handwritten memo. There are different ways to deliver different messages, so maybe experiment until you find one you find works and are comfortable with.

6. Know when to say LOL (and other chat language).

This is never right, in my personal opinion. I’ve always been a firm believer in the full use of the English language, and that abbreviations are just a lazy-man’s way of writing. The only time chat language is somewhat acceptable is via SMS. An Email is a formal form of communication, much like a letter, and thus always make sure you use correct language, and spell-check before you send. Not only that, but some people may not be aware of certain abbreviations, or may find it difficult to understand chat language. To make sure your communication is consistent and comprehendible, make sure you use correct grammar and spelling.

7. Double-check before you send!

Everyone can admit that at some point they’ve sent an Email to the wrong person by mistake, and waited anxiously for the response. Always check you’re sending it to the right person, that you’ve spell-checked, and that your subject is correct! So many times people send Emails with ambiguous subjects, or completely irrelevant people CC’d into an Email. Always check—and if you’ve noticed a mistake just as you’ve clicked send, check out the tip at the end of this post if you use Google Mail (it might save you in future!)

8. CC/BCC?

There are times when people need to be added to Emails in order to keep them up-to-date, or simply just for continuity. However, always think before you CC (Carbon-Copy) someone into an Email. Is the recipient likely to feel nervous of seeing someone else being sent the same Email? Most of the time if an Email is directed at a sole person, it can seem somewhat unprofessional to CC someone into the Email rather than using BCC (Blind Carbon-Copy). A great example would be in sending out a press release to your various contacts, you don’t necessarily want other firms to know that you’ve been sending the same information to them, and most of all to retain professionalism you should not be sharing these email addresses with competitors. Always think before you send—what impact will this have on the recipients of the email?

9. Reply-One? Reply-All!

Did you mean to send the whole department that Email? This is such a big blunder regarding group mails. Make sure you only hit Reply All if all need to hear about it. If it’s just regarding a catch-up on your holiday request, I don’t think everyone really needs to get involved. Always review who really needs to receive the Email in any case. The only times the whole department or a large group of people really need to receive an email are: any form of internal change which affects everyone, updates regarding performance or financial situations, company-wide announcements, or generalised feedback to departments. Plus this style of Email, if used constantly, can begin to make a team feel detached from the other members of the organisation and can actually decrease morale.

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10. I’M URGENT CAUSE I’M CAPITALS

Never, ever (I mean it) use Caps-Lock in a professional Email. No matter how urgent the Email is, the use of Capitals is often a highly expressive form of communication, detracting from the professionalism of a work Email. Plus, in regard to your own image, it comes across as somewhat childish in manner, and can have an impact on your own reputation.

Top Tip: Cancel Sending Emails in Google Mail

If, by unlucky circumstances, you do end up sending an Email with some incorrect information or the wrong person copied in, within Google Mail you can actually cancel an email up to 30 seconds after you clicked send. To do so, you need to go into Google Labs and enable the Undo Send button. And while you’re at it, why not check out the other features of Google Labs that you might find useful.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via ununsplash.imgix.net

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

How to Increase Work Productivity: 9 Ground Rules

How to Increase Work Productivity: 9 Ground Rules

We all have those days when completing our assigned tasks seems beyond reach. With the temptation of social media, mobile games, and the internet in general—not to mention the constant bustle of people in the office—it’s easy to fall prey to disruptions and distractions at work.

So, what can we do about it? How to be productive at work?

While we don’t have a foolproof system that can completely eliminate disturbances and diversions, we do have 9 ground rules that can be applied to help give your productivity levels a boost.

Keep reading to find out our tips on work productivity.

What Does It Mean to Be Productive?

How to be productive at work?” is the age-old question plaguing employees and employers alike around the world. Regardless of where you work and what you do, everyone is always looking for new ways to be more efficient and effective.

But what does being productive actually entail?

Completing more tasks on your list or working longer hours doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being more productive. It just means you’re more busy, and productivity shouldn’t be confused with busyness.

Productivity means achieving effective results in as short amount of time as possible, leaving you with more time to enjoy freely.

It involves working smarter, not harder. It means refining processes, speeding up workflows, and reducing the chances of interruptions.

Productivity is best achieved when looking at your current way of working, identifying the bottlenecks, flaws, and hindrances, and then finding ways to improve.

9 Ground Rules on How to Be Productive at Work

1. Avoid Multitasking

Multitasking can give the impression that more tasks can be accomplished as you’re doing multiple things at once. However, the opposite is true.

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Research has shown that attempting to do several things at the same time takes a toll on productivity and that shifting between tasks can cost up to 40 percent of someone’s time.[1] That’s because your focus and concentration is constantly hindered due to having to switch between tasks.

If you have a lot of tasks on your plate, determine your priorities and allocate enough time for each task. That way you can work on what’s urgent first and have enough time to complete the rest of your tasks.

2. Turn off Notifications

According to a Gallup poll, more than 50 percent of US smartphone owners admit to checking their phones a few times an hour.[2]

Switching off your phone—or at least your notifications—during work hours is a good way to prevent you from checking your phone all the time.

The same applies to your computer. If you have the privilege of accessing social media on your work desktop, switch off the notifications on there.

Another good tip is to logout from your social media accounts. Therefore when you feel the urge to check it, you might be swayed because your page isn’t so easily accessible.

3. Manage Interruptions

There are certain disruptions in the office that are unavoidable such as your manager requesting a quick meeting or your colleague asking for assistance. In order to deal with this, your best approach is to know how to handle interruptions like a pro.

Be proactive and inform the people around you of your need to focus. Turn your status on as “busy/unavailable” on your work chat app.

If you’re on a deadline, let your colleagues know that you need to concentrate and would really appreciate not being interrupted for the moment, or even work from home if that’s a feasible option for you.

By anticipating and having a plan in place to manage them, this will minimize your chances of being affected by interruptions.

4. Eat the Frog

Mark Twain once famously said that:

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“if it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

What this basically means is that you should get your biggest, most urgent task out of the way first.

We all have that big, important task that we don’t want to do but know we have to do because it holds the biggest consequence if we don’t complete it.

Eat the frog is a productivity technique that encourages you to do your most important, most undesirable task first. Completing this particular task before anything else will give you a huge sense of accomplishment. It will set the ball rolling for the rest of the day and motivate you to eagerly complete your other tasks.

5. Cut Down on Meetings

Meetings can use up a lot of time, which is time that can be used to do something useful.

You have to wait for everyone to arrive, then after the pleasantries are out of the way, you can finally get stuck into it. And sometimes, it may take a whole hour to iron out one single issue.

The alternative? Don’t arrange a meeting at all. You’ll be surprised at how many things can be resolved through an email or a quick phone call.

But that doesn’t mean you should eliminate meetings altogether. There are certain circumstances where face-to-face discussions and negotiations are still necessary. Just make sure you weigh up the options prior.

If it’s just information sharing, you’re probably better off sending an email; but if brainstorming or in-depth discussion is required, then an in-person meeting would be best.

6. Utilize Tools

Having the right tools to work with is crucial as you’re only really as good as the resources you have at your disposal. Not only will you be able to complete tasks as efficiently as possible, but they can streamline processes. Said processes are essential to a business as they manage tasks, keep employees connected, and hold important data.

If you’re the manager or business owner, ensure your team has the right tools in place.

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And if you’re an employee and think the tools you currently have to work with aren’t quite up to par, let your manager know. A good team leader understands the significance of having the right tools and how it can impact employee productivity.

Some examples of tools that could be used:

Communication
  • Slack for team chat and collaboration.
  • Samepage for video conference software.
  • Zendesk for customer service engagement.
Task Management
  • Zenkit for task and project collaboration.
  • Wunderlist for listing your to-do’s.
  • Wekan for an open source option.
Database Management
Time Tracking
  • Clockify for a free tracker.
  • TMetric for workspace integrations.
  • TimeCamp for attendance and productivity monitoring.

You can also take a look at these Top 10 Productivity Tools to Help You Achieve 10x More in Less Time.

7. Declutter and Organize

Having a disorganized and cluttered workspace can limit your ability to focus. According to researchers, physical clutter can negatively impact your ability to concentrate and take in information.[3] Which is why keeping your work environment well ordered and clutter-free is important.

Ensure you have your own system of organization so you know what to do when the paperwork starts to pile up.

Being organized will also ensure that you know where to find the appropriate stationery, tools, or documents when you need it. A US study reveals that the average worker can waste up to one week a year looking for misplaced items.[4]

Here’s a useful guide to help you declutter and organize: How to Declutter Your Life and Reduce Stress (The Ultimate Guide)

8. Take Breaks

Taking regular breaks is essential for maintaining productivity at work. Working in front of a computer can lead to a sedentary lifestyle which can place you at a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Even a 30 second microbreak can increase your productivity levels up to 30 percent.

As well as your physical health, breaks are also crucial for your mental and emotional wellbeing. That’s because your brain is like a muscle, the more it works without a break, the easier it is for it to get worn out.

Ensuring you actually take your breaks can prevent you from suffering from decision fatigue. It can also help boost creativity.

Take a look at this article and learn why you should start scheduling time for breaks: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

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9. Drink Water

Although we know we should, it’s easy to forget to drink enough water during the working day.

Many of us turn to tea or coffee for the caffeine hit to keep us going. However, like taking breaks, drinking water is essential for maintaining productivity levels at work. It’s simple and effective.

Not drinking enough water can lead to dehydration and also headaches, tiredness, and weight gain.

A good tip to avoid dehydration is to keep a water bottle at your desk as it can serve as a reminder to constantly drink water.

If you find the taste of water a little bland, add some fruit such as cucumber or lemon to give it a better taste.

You can also get more ideas on how to drink more water here: How to Drink More Water (and Why You Should)

The Bottom Line

The preceding 9 ground rules on work productivity aren’t the be-all, end-all. You and the company you work for may have other tips on how productivity is best increased and maintained.

After all, it’s something that can be perceived differently depending on the exact job and work environment.

In saying that, however, the 9 ground rules serve as a good foundation for anyone finding themselves succumbing to disruption and distraction, and are looking for ways to overcome them.

A good tip to keep in mind is that change doesn’t happen overnight. Start small and be consistent. If you slip up, just dust yourself off and try again.

Developing habits happens gradually, so as long as you keep up with it, you’ll soon start to notice the changes you’ve been making and eventually enjoy the fruits of your labor.

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Featured photo credit: Cathryn Lavery via unsplash.com

Reference

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