Increase Your Email Efficiency

Three letters

Processing your email can tear a huge chunk of time out of your day if you manage several projects or have some other reason to be receiving and sending lots of emails. Some of those emails are going to ramble and be lengthy beyond what their subject matter warrants. This wastes your time, slows your rate of response, and bloats your inbox. But are you doing the same thing to other people?

Before you hit “send” and inflict your email on someone else, make sure you’re keeping your communications as streamlined as possible.

Is it necessary?

Before you put someone’s address in the CC portion of your email or send a letter to multiple recipients, consider whether or not the person on the other end actually needs to get your email. Are you cc’ing them just to keep them in the loop? If so, consider whether or not that person needs or wants to be kept as tightly in the loop as you’re keeping them. If your boss has requested that you send him or her any emails pertaining to a certain project, then by all means, include that address. But if you’re doing it just in case, you might creating unnecessary communications that are chipping away at the recipients’ productivity.

What’s the point?

Every email you write should have a main point, or a small number of main points, that you want to get across. As you’re giving your email a final glance before you send it off, check to ensure that main point is as close to the beginning of the email as possible. If you’ve got multiple main points, try using a bulleted list, with each point distilled to one sentence.

Is there any fluff?

Your main point should be one of the very few things in the email. Don’t give lengthy explanations of things unless they’re absolutely necessary. Consider what your reader already knows, and if you’re reiterating anything they’re already aware of, cut out the explanation. You’d be surprised just how little information you need to give someone for them to understand you (village idiot excluded).

What are the benefits of writing shorter emails?

So how does writing shorter emails help you manage your inbox? For one, it lets other people know that they can send a short response. If you only sent three sentences, they hardly need to send more. You’ve invited your emails’ recipients into the idea of slimmer emails. You’ll start fostering the idea that shorter emails are preferred, at least where you’re concerned, so people won’t feel obligated to give you the lengthy explanations you’ve already demonstrated to be unnecessary. When that point gets across, you won’t only be looking at slimmer emails, but at a slimmer inbox as well.

It also means you’re not writing as many words, which saves you time once you get in the habit of writing in an abbreviated style.

Admittedly, some emails need to be longer because they include lots of important information (this information may be better communicated in a different way, but sometimes email is still the best option). Personal emails also warrant a little more character and pleasantry than a stripped-down, bare-bones business memo. However, the number of emails that deserve to be long is much, much smaller than the number that currently are, so next time you move to hit “send,” pause for a minute and see if you can save your colleagues a little time by editing your work.

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