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Do you ever receive very lengthy emails that only needed a few bullet points?  Have you ever become emotionally triggered by something someone said in an email?  Do you find yourself drowning in a sea of cc’s all day long?  Everyone has a bad email story, whether on the receiving end or as the sender.

In order to gain insight into a client’s communication style, I sometimes ask them to forward me draft or sent emails.  Below are 10 common problems I’ve seen with people’s use of electronic exchange, along with suggested solutions.

Practices #1 – 5

  1. Writing or replying to an email when frustrated. Avoid the desire to work out a disagreement or frustration via email. Waiting 24 hours before responding to an email that has triggered your emotions will ensure a rational, rather than emotional, response. If it needs a quicker response, at least take a few minutes or an hour to step back and allow yourself to think through the issue and consider the other person’s point of view. If you can’t move past your frustration, or if there’s a clear disagreement, pick up the phone.

  2. Confusing emailing with productivity. Sometimes “doing email” is productive, and other times it’s a way of procrastinating. Instead of distracting yourself with email early in the morning, tackle the least appealing task on your to-do list first. This will give you positive momentum for the rest of the day.

  3. Starting too many conversations. Be purposeful with whom you send or cc your emails – who truly needs to receive this email? Be especially cautious of emailing in the morning if you cc a lot. Imagine having someone come into your office early in the day and start a conversation with you, then another person walks in, then 10 more people walk in, all having the same or different conversations. Sending and cc’ing emails opens up correspondence that may last the entire day, and you already have enough demands on your attention.

  4. Over using the Reply All. Don’t “Reply All” to insignificant group emails. If John sends a project update to the team, there’s no use replying “Thanks, John” to everybody. Sometimes people do this because they want to be noticed. Keep in mind that you are being noticed – as someone who wants to be noticed.

  5. Writing lengthy content. Sending emails places a demand on the receivers’ time, so be purposeful. Let’s face it, everyone is busy and few want to give up their precious minutes reading a coworker pontificate. Using bullets efficiently conveys your points while respecting the recipient’s time.

Stay tuned for Practices #6 – 10!