Is that even possible? Emails that could improve our lives?
Most people talk about email as the bane of their organizational existence! Plenty of studies talk about how much of our work lives are sucked up by email. Wouldn't it be nice to have some email strategies to make email a more valuable part of our work and life?
Here are some new email strategies you can employ -- some specific emails you can send that will make a difference for you and your co-workers.
Productivity Email Strategies
- The Next Step Email. Ever gotten off a call or left a meeting and you weren't exactly sure what the next steps were? Trust me; if you aren't sure, others aren't either. Hopefully, you can get to the place where meetings and calls end with a clear list of next steps (what's, who's, and by when's). But when it doesn't happen, time spent creating and sending this email will clarify, confirm, and improve the chances things will really get done.
- The "Let's Get on the Phone" Email. You've been in the email thread that is three or four messages long and getting more complex (and maybe less civil). It isn't going well and getting harder to respond to. You can improve the health of your inbox and your stress level by replying with, "Let's talk about this rather than typing" and suggest a call or webcam conversation. That email will almost always save you time and misunderstandings.
Relationship Email Strategies
- The Encouraging Email. How would you like to receive an email sent by a friend or co-worker that was meant to be encouraging and uplifting? If you have ever gotten any of those, I bet you saved them. Why not be the person who sends them? Send a note of encouragement -- be specific about something the person did or does regularly and let them know it makes a difference. This is positive feedback that can be savored and saved.
- The Thank You Email. One of the first things our parents taught us to do was say "thank you." What if, at least once a week, you thanked a co-worker, customer or vendor for something they did or said? You would make someone's day, improve your relationships, and make Mom proud.
- The "Just Because" Email. The "Just Because" email is an email with no agenda, no need for a response (though you will likely get one). It is a note to say hello or reconnect, "just because." If you send the Encouraging Email and The Thank You email regularly, you might not need this one at work -- but there are other people in your life with email addresses, aren't there? Did you think about a memory with a friend? Send them and note and tell them. Has it been a while since you talked to someone? Send them a note and let them know you want to stay in touch. On the professional side, a "just because" email could go to a former boss, mentor, or co-worker. Customers, current or former, would likely love a "just because" email from you too.
The Personal Email Strategies
These two emails are different. Since we live in our inboxes, these are emails sent to ourselves -- as reminders and reinforcers. Read on, and you will understand what I mean.
- The Learning Email. One of the ways we can reinforce and remember what we learn is to write it down. What if when you learn something, gained an insight, or wanted to apply a new technique, you wrote it down as an email to yourself? You would gain the clarity that comes from writing it down, the chances of you applying it would go up as you committed it to yourself, and you could save those lessons and learning in a folder in your email. Emails like this sent to yourself regularly could change your life.
- The Values/Habit Email. Imagine on Friday afternoon or Sunday evening, thinking about your coming week, and deciding a single value you could express or habit you want to reinforce. Then imagine seeing an email from yourself on Monday morning with that word or habit in the subject line, waiting for you as a reminder. Nothing more needed than the value or habit in the subject line (perhaps in all caps) to remind you at the start of your week about your intentional decision to guide your decisions and improve your week.
And Two More
The email strategies I have listed will help you make email more valuable and helpful to you, but there are two other strategies too -- these are the emails not to send.
- The I'm Ticked Off Email. When you are upset by the situation or the email you just received, don't respond. Maybe not ever, but certainly not now. Take 10 minutes, an hour, or maybe overnight, before you send the email that won't make anything better -- and could make many things worse. Time will likely alter your approach or keep you from sending the email at all. If the situation requires an immediate response (does it really?), the phone will likely be better than words on a screen.
- The I Don't Want to Talk, So I Will Email, Email. This is possibly a cousin to the I'm Ticked Off Email, but perhaps with less emotion. This is the email you send because you just don't want to talk to the other person or want to "have a record" of the conversation. In most cases, this happens because trust isn't very high with the recipient, right? Trust me, sending another email isn't likely to move the trust needle in a positive direction, but a call or a walk down the hall might.
These have been strategies for emails you send, but how about an email that would help you build your skills and confidence as a leader? And what if it was just one email a day for the next 13 days?
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