Sunday, March 13, 2005

HBS Working Knowledge: The Leadership Workshop: Tips for Mastering E-mail Overload

HBS Working Knowledge: The Leadership Workshop: Tips for Mastering E-mail Overload: "
by Stever Robbins

Being at or near the the top of your organization, everyone wants a piece of you. So they send you e-mail. It makes you feel important. Don't you love it? Really? Then, please take some of mine! Over 100 real e-mails come in each day. At three minutes apiece, it will take five hours just to read and respond. Let's not even think about the messages that take six minutes of work to deal with. Shudder. I'm buried in e-mail and chances are, you're not far behind. For whatever reason, everyone feels compelled to keep you 'in the loop.'

Fortunately, being buried alive under electronic missives forced me to develop coping strategies. Let me share some of the nonobvious ones with you. Together, maybe we can start a revolution."
Use a subject line to summarize, not describe.
Give your reader full context at the start of your message.
When you copy lots of people (a heinous practice that should be used sparingly), mark out why each person should care.
Use separate messages rather than bcc (blind carbon copy).
Make action requests clear.
Separate topics into separate e-mails … up to a point.
Combine separate points into one message.
Edit forwarded messages.
When scheduling a call or conference, include the topic in the invitation. It helps people prioritize and manage their calendar more effectively.
Make your e-mail one page or less.
Understand how people prefer to be reached, and how quickly they respond.

How to read and receive e-mail-
Check e-mail at defined times each day.
Charge people for sending you messages.
Train people to be relevant.
Answer briefly.
Send out delayed responses.
Ignore it.

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