Creating Better Emails in 2021

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Businesses after the pandemic will be changed forever, which can be a good thing. The important part is re-defining how we do business in a way that fosters what’s most important to us.

Few things overwhelm a leader as quickly as an overfull inbox. There are multiple strategies you can use within your email client to organize your inbox – including setting rules for how emails are sorted and or categorized. While each mail program is slightly different, take time to explore the productivity tools available to help streamline your incoming email.

When you’re the sender, use these techniques to ensure your outgoing email messages are clear, targeted, and garner results:

  • Be specific in your subject line – if possible, include what you need and when you need it. For example, Quarterly Forecasts: Due Friday, August 20th is more specific than Quarterly Forecasts or even Quarterly Forecasts Due. Precision is key – don’t dance around the request.
  • If your email includes an action required by a specific due date, some email programs allow you to insert a flag with task reminders for recipients.
  • Send to the correct audience. Resist sending to overlarge groups, especially if you need an outcome. If you are sending general information, consider whether email is the right way to disseminate the information. Is this content something that should be on an Intranet, or even a topic for a larger team town-hall style meeting?
  • Keep your emails (and responses) short and targeted. Start with the result you seek, adding more detail than the subject line allows if needed, and framing the request in context. If your email is longer than the window on your computer screen, it is probably too long. Consider how the reader will access the email – will it be on a computer? A mobile device? If readers must scroll, you risk losing their attention and not getting the results you need.
  • Provide context in an “fyi” email. Why did you believe the person needed the information? Tell the reader why what your sending is relevant. Resist the urge to forward without contextualizing the content.
  • Be realistic about response times. If you need a more immediate response, consider whether email is the best communication method. Should this be a phone call or instant message, instead? It is reasonable to wait for a response to an email for a day or two, perhaps longer if you’re emailing with international colleagues.
  • Finally, write professionally. Keep in mind that your email might be forwarded.

For additional email best practices, check out The Muse founder Alex Cavoulacos’s article “Finally, the 23 Unwritten Rules of Email.”

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