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Email – love it or hate it but get better at it!

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No matter what your job as an information worker is you probably have a large part of that job spent looking at a screen sending emails. Ok, I will start off by admitting that email is a love hate thing for me. Email is great because you can have the ability to communicate with people all over the world and at all times of the day. But, email also encourages poor communication habits because it is easy to send email and there is virtually no cost.

Whether it is your personal life or your professional life email has become a necessary evil. Before getting into how you can get better with email, let me put an observation out there. I understand that Gen Y (aka Millennials) and Gen Z don’t use email like Gen X and Baby Boomers but many of these communication themes apply across the board. Good communication is just that. However, no matter what generation you are part of email is still a staple in professional life.

Getting to the heart of the matter at hand email is something that we will likely have around for a long time and having good email practices is important to being an effective communicator and a successful information worker. Here are five tips to take into account and practice when crafting emails:

  • Good subject lines: The subject line of an email is one of the most important things to get right. Subject lines are what get people to open up your email and pay attention or to gloss over it and ignore. If you get a reputation for poor subject lines then your emails will be the one ignored.

Other tips for subject lines include: if a response is needed by a certain date then indicate as much in the subject line along with a clear indication of what the topic email is about. If an email is regarding a certain project name then include that or some other indicator at the beginning. If an email is important then state “IMPORTANT” in the subject line but don’t be the person that does this all the time.

  • Clear and concise: We all know people that ramble on in emails and it is frustrating. More often than not when I see a long email from someone that has rambling emails I will either ignore it or just end up calling the person asking them to summarize. Do not have rambling emails. Respect people’s time and make every word count.
  • Start with priority and asks: Start with what is most important in your email at the beginning of the email and then proceed in order of importance. This will help ensure that your most important item is most likely read. Further, if you have a specific ask in an email then make sure that is noticeable and at the beginning and indicate the date you are asking it to be completed.
  • Email recipients: Some people have the tendency to reply all to all emails or have the tendency to always include a person’s manager and other senior leaders on emails. Both these things should be cautioned. Not everyone needs to be on every email. Think about whom the recipients should be and limit your email to those people. Additionally, if some people should receive the email for information purposes but they are not the person being asked to perform something then make that clear at the start of the email.

One thing to especially avoid is copying the person’s boss and other important people all the time. This comes off poorly and I see the same people doing it over and over again. Guess what most bosses and other senior people know this modus operandi also and it is not viewed well. There are certainly times when an email to the senior level people is warranted but it should be highly limited.

  • Don’t email when you are emotional: We have all been upset from a meeting, phone call or email. There is a tendency to go and draft an email and press send. Avoid this emotionally driven digital speak.

Sure go ahead and draft that email but do not press send and do not even have the intended recipients in the “TO: line”. Any emotionally driven email should be reviewed by another person prior to sending and delayed from being sent one day.

Instead of just quickly replying all to your next email and shooting off some words into the digital ether – take some time and craft a sensible email geared at the message you would like to convey. Doing so will ensure you are more likely to have your message received and respected.

Learn More: This post is about using email effectively as a tool but there are also a lot of challenges with just keeping up with email and being productive. There are tons of other great resources on email productivity. One of popular note is Merlin Mann’s Inbox Zero at www.43folders.com, which aims at quickly addressing email and efficiently categorizing and addressing email.

Have an awesome week and remember to do something today to supercharge your success.

As always appreciate your feedback, emails, comments, likes, and re-tweets!

photo credit: 1337 Gmail Inbox via photopin (license)

About WorkLearnPlay: WorkLearnPlay.com is about helping information workers live better lives and supercharge their success in the workplace. Please let me know how I can continue to make this site better and help you and others supercharge your success.

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Where does your communication roadmap lead?

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Communication is one of those things we all know is important. No matter if you are a manager or individual contributor we all must communicate daily. Communication is easy but good communication is tough. What is more difficult is there is no right way to communicate with everyone.

People are different and communication styles are different. Some people prefer direct, in-person communication while others prefer indirect, text message communication. How often do you tell others how you prefer to communicate or ask others how they like to be communicated with?

You can be the person that is a take it or leave it communication style or you can adapt to others and meet them halfway. The more you improve your communication with others the more your success will increase.

So next time you have a new employee, new manager, new friend, or new relationship, start out and ask her for her communication roadmap and provide her yours. This communication roadmap should indicate things like:

  1. Communication style: There are different communication styles. Some people prefer the direct and short style of communication. Not everyone can take being direct and having short communications with some people will make them jump to conclusions that you are unhappy with them. Others prefer the drawn out, beat-around-the-bush style. Whatever a person’s style is try to adapt your communication to it and watch how it pays off.
  2. Communication format: Communication can come in many different forms. I am a face-to-face communicator or at worse on the phone. Sure I respond to emails and voicemails but it is not my preferred format. Knowing the preferred format of people you frequently communicate and trying to engage in that format as it makes sense will help you be more successful in your communications.
  3. Communication frequency: People need different levels of communication frequency. Some people talking with them once a week is plenty while others need to communicate twice a day. Some of the communication frequency is certainly job dependent but much of it is a communication preference.
  4. Communication pet peeves: Some things just piss us off. Letting people know those pet peeves helps people not fall into those communication pitfalls.

Having the communication roadmap for your colleagues, friends, employees, relationships, and manager and providing them your communication roadmap will increase your communication effectiveness. Once you have that roadmap then utilizing it to effectively engage with others will increase your chances for success.

Have an awesome week and remember to do something today to supercharge your success.

As always appreciate your feedback, emails, comments, likes, and re-tweets!

photo credit: w20 – Paul Meyer via photopin (license)

About WorkLearnPlay: WorkLearnPlay.com is about helping information workers live better lives and supercharge their success in the workplace. Please let me know how I can continue to make this site better and help you and others supercharge your success.

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Don’t let sunk costs sink you

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A popular term in economics, accounting, and finance is “sunk costs” which basically means costs that have already been spent. These costs may be from software purchased, processes redesigned, machines purchased, consultants hired, etc. Whatever the costs are it has been spent and there is no getting it back.

Instead of looking at what has been spent you need to do a fresh analysis right now to determine what decision you would make looking at things are fresh. This might mean going a completely different direction in software or equipment used.

Of course there are political dynamics here because somebody made that decision to spend money previously and if the course changes there are always questions that arise and there are people that will defend actions. In a later post we will discuss this and other potential things to take into account when making decisions counter to past decisions.

The following are things to remember when making a decision that could be impacted by “sunk costs”:

  • Analyze fresh: Remember sunk costs are just that – sunk. Do not include them in your calculations and make fresh decisions whether it is on changing a process, software, or hardware.
  • Do not get emotional: Avoid that emotional tug you and others may have to feel bad about money and time previously spent. Getting someone involved that does not have emotional baggage on the particular item is best.
  • Understand history: Oftentimes new people come into a department and are quick to find things that are “wrong” and should be changed. Getting fresh perspective is vital. However, understanding history and why decisions were previously made will help you ensure your new analysis takes into account all needed items into the calculation at hand.

It is important that you as an individual contributor or leader understand sunk costs and how to take a fresh lens to a problem and ignore these sunk costs in making good decisions will ensure that sunk costs do not sink you.

As always appreciate your feedback, emails, comments, likes, and re-tweets!

photo credit: *Amanda Richards via photopin cc