This post was written by Amy Fenollosa, Director of Learning at The Latimer Group.
It’s officially the end of summer; post-Labor Day, post-vacation re-entry for many of us. Have you taken time off this summer and returned to an overwhelming backlog of email? Did you find yourself checking your email remotely? Or were you able to disconnect completely and leave the office behind for even a few short days?
We’re all obsessed with our mobile devices and compelled to check in whenever, wherever we are. At The Latimer Group, we’re always thinking about balance and how to resist the constant lure of our mobile devices. When I returned from summer vacation, as I was weeding through email, I found an appropriately-timed article called “How to keep email from ruining your vacation.” I was intrigued, so I read on. The shocking new idea? An app that will auto-reply to your email while you’re on vacation informing people of when you’ll return, (just as our out of office messages will do), but the new piece? After the auto-reply, the app DELETES the message from your inbox.
Imagine that! Returning from vacation to an EMPTY inbox? The concept behind the app is that it prevents you from checking in while you’re on vacation. The theory is that people will know that you’re unavailable, and will send a second email when you return.
Now we’re not advocating for deleting all email before you’ve read it, nor are we suggesting that everyone ignore email entirely. However, it’s a reminder about our overwhelming over-use of email. If you’re like me, while you’re away, you check in occasionally, respond to the urgent messages, and try to hold off on the rest.
Upon return, we naturally triage the messages. We may organize them in folders, flag them, or informally prioritize them as urgent, need attention, or those that can wait. We manage the messages accordingly and try to respond in a timely manner.
As you’re firing off your next email message, remember the app that will delete your messages. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes and ask yourself whether the message is essential. If so, how can you craft it so that you’ll receive a timely response?
- Use the subject line effectively: let the reader know the essence of your message.
- Put your request or question right up front. If people know what you need on first glance, they’re more likely to respond.
- Be succinct. Be as crisp and clear and to the point as possible.
If you can show respect for your colleagues by writing simple, succinct and essential emails, you’re likely to get a response. And just maybe, by modeling that, you can start a cultural shift toward fewer emails, and those that are sent will be essential.