Making Email more effective

We spend a great deal of time dealing with email on a daily basis and constantly look for new ways to get it under control.  Whether it’s new applications, strategies, or techniques, the quest seems to be never ending.  Here’s three ways I’ve streamlined my email use you may find helpful.

No more signatures

Email is not a direct analog for paper mail, no matter how much the name would lead you to believe.  Keeping that in mind you can improve your email use by doing away with some of the artifacts from the paper mail world such as signature lines.

If you’ve ever received an email from a corporate email account odds are it ended with the person’s name, title, contact information, email address (really?), and in many cases physical address, inspirational quote, and company logo. This doesn’t begin to address the two paragraphs of legalese saying basically “if I sent you this by accident, sorry, please delete, or I will be very cross. “ Why do we feel the need to include all of this unnecessary content on every email we send?

Many people now process their email on mobile devices and I’m willing to state, through careful observation and questioning, NO ONE READS THE SIGNATURE. Didn’t mean to shout but it’s an important point to get across. If you feel the need to include your contact information there are better ways to do it rather than attaching it to every email you send. I know, “corporate branding” and all that, but honestly unless you’re representing your organization in a sales or marketing capacity AND you’re contacting someone you’ve never interacted with before, the signature line novel is just wasted bits.

Reply in a concise manner

When replying to an email, there’s a perception of lowered formality than if you are sending out the first email in a conversation (I’ll get to email conversations in a bit.) Don’t feel as if you need to add a formal header and footer on your email replies unless absolutely necessary. Keep things short, to the point, and clear.

Use multiple emails when necessary

Wait, what? How does that possibly help address the email issues? Think about the last email you received that included six different questions about different topics, with explanations and multiple requests for feedback all contained within. Rather than replying with one email, all of that content, and the impending confusion it will entail, break the email down into individual answers and respond accordingly. Even more effective, trim down the response text to just the part you are responding to. In almost all current email clients so long as you leave the subject line intact your response will be included as part of the message thread even though you’ve significantly changed the body of the message.

Email is not a formal medium. Bring it out of the 20th century.

We need to view email as a tool with equivalent functionality to other collaborative tools such as instant messaging and discussion threading. When we realize that email does not have to be the junk-laden, graphic-heavy, inbox-stuffing bane of our existence and take it back to it’s roots of simple, concise messages we can get it under control and finally make it productive again.

What do you think? Does email have a future for you? Tell me what you think in the comments.