You’re doing it wrong!

It’s been a while since my last update, and that’s because I am trying to wade through your emails. The intolerable depths of email you’re generating because you’re doing it wrong. I have a couple suggestions you have heard a million times and are fortunate enough to hear again. Lucky you. Hopefully this will help you do it right. Remember that email was born from non-electronic office customs and if you remember that you can avoid these pitfalls.

  1. Reply-All should be limited to groups of 3-4. If you use the reply all button to sustain a 10 person, or even the unimaginable entire office email, you’re doing it wrong. Also, your conversation (just like words-from-your-mouth real life) has probably split off into a couple different themes which don’t merit the entire group being involved. In many cases, having that many opinions in an email just makes it worse. Be pointed and direct your ongoing conversation to the most relevant folks on a thread. Once there is a summary that is mostly a statement of fact and not a discussion, you can send a note to the entire group so that they are aware of the final decision. Reply-All is not a resume booster. It is not a way to show you contribute. It is not a way to prove to your boss that you read emails. It is a nuisance and should be used sparingly.
  2. You don’t have to reply. What? You don’t have to reply to an email. There is no obligation inferred when you receive an email. It’s just a note. If I drop a hand written note with some information on your desk, do you hand write a thank you note and drop it on my desk? Nope. Email is no different. If I send you some information, consume it, act on it, then move on. Don’t take two minutes of your time to type “thanks” which takes two minutes of my time to read and delete.
  3. Put a dang signature in your email. Even if it is nothing more than your email and phone number. I know, you emailed me from your email address, but I still like to see it in your signatures. I tend to do fancier searches and may only want to search the body of an email. Also, what does it hurt. It’s a handful more characters. Phone numbers are critical. I don’t want to call you, but I may want to text you later. I understand some people want to protect their number and that’s why every reasonable email client has the option to choose from multiple signatures. You know what I don’t want to see in your signature? 75 links to your customer service department, an ad for the SPCA, and 3 lines worth of professional designations that you have received. Don’t care. I can find all of that about you on your LinkedIn profile. You have one of those, right? There are exceptions, but for most folks, a simple Name, Number, Email signature will suffice. If you must add a picture, understand what that means. Remember that your signature is like a business card, so keep it that simple.
  4. If I didn’t ask for it, don’t send me your vCard. Are you that person that has your vCard attached to every email? I’ve spent years perfecting my contacts database. I know for a fact that your vCard doesn’t meet my formatting requirements. Stop please.
  5. Get a sync and share app. What is sync and share? It’s a tool that stores your documents in a cloud and gives you the ability to share them with your colleagues using web links. This helps me avoid the 25mb attachment you sent me. It also avoids my team having to send a document around with trailing file names like _ericedits or _version732final because we can work on it collaboratively as a group. If your IT tream doesn’t provide you a sync and share tool, then it’s their fault you are going to use a “box” product instead. Just use it.
  6. Don’t email me. I have a mini computer that I carry everywhere. On it are multiple communication apps including the widely adopted iMessage and SMS text. Can you not quickly ask your question using that instead of sending an email? Would you send me a letter asking if I have any lunch plans when you could just call me? No, so why email me when you can just text me?
  7. Don’t call me. It will never be a short call and when you call me I have to drop all other activities to talk to you. Unfortunately I am a multi-tasking fool. I love it! When I can be sitting in a meeting where it’s not my turn to talk and I can be working on the next request under the table via text or email, I’m victorious (and simultaneously the rudest person in the room, but more on that in another post). When you call me, I have to focus on just you. Which gives you a hint of when you SHOULD call me. If you need my undivided attention, better pick up the phone.

Electronic business communication mimics real life communication. Keep that motto in mind as you sit down to start typing something up.

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