Peggy Duncan is a personal productivity expert. To develop skills that will help youmanage email overload, check out her book, Conquer Email Overload with Better Habits, Etiquette, and Outlook 2007.
If left unchecked, spam can drive you nuts, but what about the email messages from people you either want to or have to hear from? Are they doing anything that’s making you swear at your computer screen every time you “hear” from them?
Bad email habits are aggravating. They also contribute to email overload which is a huge problem in the workplace. Studies show that email overload causes people to work anywhere from one to two extra hours a day, either at work or when they get home.
Sending or responding to all to CYA (cover your butt). Stop sending to all if all do not have a need to know. You wanted to make sure you were covered so you’re sending everyone on a list your answer—whether they needed to know or not. Or you’re sending a message to everyone because you’re too lazy to select the appropriate recipients. And when you’re forwarding on top of forwarding, the originator ends up with his own message!
People trying to solve complex issues using email. You’re part of a new committee, then the email messages start, back and forth, dizzying speed, the more they come, the more confused you get. Pick up the phone!
Dirty email messages. These are those messages you receive loaded with those darn carets (>>>), or pages and pages of email addresses that weren’t protected using a blind copy feature. Is it too much to ask for the sender to clean dirty emails before sending it? Would you send a letter out on your company stationery like that? You can get rid of carets by pasting the message into Word and using the Find and Replace feature to find a caret and replace all of them with nothing. You can get rid of all the email addresses just by deleting. Clean it up, then send it.
Subject lines that don’t match the message. Don’t pull up an old message, hit Reply, and send me a message that has nothing to do with the previous one. Suppose you sent an email message two months ago that said, “The monthly meeting has been cancelled.” You pulled up that old message because the email addresses were already in it. But this time, you wanted to let everyone know that coffee and donuts would be served at this month’s meeting. At the very least, change the subject line!
Last-minute cancellations. Cancelling a meeting at the last minute and letting me know via email. I show up, “Oh, didn’t you get my e-mail?” When did you send it? I left my office two hours ago, and now my whole day is shot.
Procrastinators. People who wait until the last minute to ask you to do something as if you had nothing else to do. You know the work was in a pile on their desk, and while they were digging for something else, they found it, and sent you an email message, marking it urgent. Then when the deadline isn’t met, it’s not their fault because they “gave it to you.”
People who call you instead of checking their email. You’ve done your job, and sent an email message to people with information they need. They end up calling you asking for the info because, “I’m too busy to check email. Please always call me with the information or at least call me to let me know you sent it.”
Closely related to this one is people who’ll send you a message, then they call you or come by your desk asking if you received it! Paleeze!
No response. You send a legitimate email message to someone who has requested information. The message clearly needs a response, but nothing happens. If you’re too busy to hit Reply to say “No,” you need to examine how you’re working. Why did you make me waste your time and mine?
One-liners. “thanks,” “Oh, OK.” My goodness! You sent an email message to 25 people, and 15 of them sent you a one-liner. Next time, put “No Reply Necessary” at the top.
Underlines. Don’t underline anything in a message (or on a Web page) that’s not a hyperlink. I always move the mouse toward it thinking it’ll take me somewhere.
Someone replying to my message without the previous message below it or attached to it. I forgot what I asked them.
Smileys, emoticons. If you wouldn’t put a smiley face or emoticon on your business correspondence, you shouldn’t put it in an email message.
Plaxo. Those emails from you asking me to update my contact information. Your best customer is getting 10 of these a day! And, I don’t even remember who these people are. I went to the Plaxo Web site and opted out of receiving any of these annoying updates. Make sure you opt out all of your email addresses!
Senseless Autoresponders. How about the one that says “Thank you for your email message. I will respond to you as soon as I can.” What a complete waste of my time to open this stupid response. It’s almost like the letter carrier leaving me a message in my mailbox saying, “I picked up your mail today. I’ll bring you more when I get it.”
Words from grown, business people using shortcuts such as “4 u” (instead of “for you”), “Gr8” (for great) in business-related email. Are you lazy, or just can’t type or spell? If you wouldn’t send a company letter out like that, it shouldn’t be in an email message. (This is different from legitimate abbreviations a company may develop such as NRN for No Reply Necessary.)
Read receipt. As if you’re checking up on me to see if I open your message. I don’t know why people waste time doing this because most people probably have this feature turned off in their email software.
Too many attachments. You should get permission before sending someone an email message with more than two attachments. Instead of sending 5 PDFs, consider combining them into one document.
Attachment and no body. If you send an email message about an event and no explanation in the body, especially if it’s a large file and would drain my ink supply if I printed it. If the details are in the body of the email, I don’t need the attachment. I don’t need to see how creative you were with your flyer. I just need the info.
Too much is too much. You’re sending pages and pages of one conversation and I’m having to dig through it all to figure out what’s going on.
Recipient names not private. No bcc and pages of email addresses in the message.
Passing on hoaxes instead of checking them out first. What would make you believe that Bill Gates would send you $5000 just for sending an email message? And did you know that the Teddy Bear file you so willingly deleted from your computer was a legitimate Windows file? Check it our first at www.sarc.com.
Who are you? People I met briefly some time ago sending me an email message without reminding me who they are.
Messages without signature lines. Your email signature is a great way to let people know more about you, especially when your email address is something like firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adding me to your email list. I just met you, barely remember you, and I’m already on your distribution list for your newsletter, thoughts for the day, and news you think I want to know.
Bad grammar and punctuation. You can’t hide behind an administrative assistant to clean up your act, so go take some classes and learn how to write and spell. Some messages are so bad, it’s like reading a foreign language, and it wastes my time trying to figure out your mess.
Work email abuse. People sending me non-work-related email from their job. I don’t want my name and email address showing up in company reports.
Unprofessional email IDs. People who send a business email message using addresses such as email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org;email@example.com.
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