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10 Zen-like Approach to Email

Life is one big negotiating opportunity, and first impression is ultimate. Whether you are the recipient or the sender – you are negotiating for some attention or trying to negotiate for time while battling with continuous interruptions.

I’ve been trying hard lately to respond to all emails within 24 hours. Hmm, still struggling. Let see how this will go and I come back with how am doing much later.

Ok, here are some of the rules that have been working for me.

As a Recipient

1. This is how I work: I generally sort emails by: a. responding immediately, b. deleting or c. delegating to a colleague within few hours.

2. I don’t check emails constantly. Luckily, I’m not a Blackberry user or addict. But maybe that will change – who knows. I check in 3 blocks: first thing in the Morning (before 8am), after Noon (around 2PM) and late in the Evening (9pm-ish).

3. I sometimes do not respond to emails that are super-urgent and requires IMMEDIATE ACTION. I rather will pick up my mobile and call right away. It shows how responsive you are. People have been surprised when they email and you respond with a call. I recently concluded a deal that could have involved some ping-pong messages (up to 10 back-and-forth messages) with a phone call. It saves time, energy and resources.

4. If you receive an email with a tone of Anger and you get turned on and infuriated. Just delay and please do not hit on the reply button. It will save you a lot in terms of managing the situation. If not, it could escalate into a full blown crisis in your hands.

5. Don’t use your email account for more than one email address. I’ve friends who run some 3-5 email addresses through their Google Account and end up with some 2,000 unread messages – really SCARY. I wonder how much opportunity will be lost in unresponded emails or skipped possibility?!

As a Sender

6. Make messages easy to digest for the recipient and for yourself later on. I have seen people who find it hard to discern the content of their message just few days after. Imagine! Write in simple and clear terms, and write in bullet points or in itemized form reflecting who is responsible for what.

7. Your subject is key. I got very disturbed this last week when I got an email from a contractor, let me quote him verbatim: “Did not get it all right and not all wrong”. What is he trying to say or communicate? The message of the email had me put a red flag on him. He needs urgent help! Clear communication is key and we get interviewed everyday.

8. Always put your recipient in mind. If you are sending an email to a Senior Colleague avoid using colloquial slangs or abbrevations e.g. it’s like, or wrt. As a person, I end up spending more time battling with abbreviations than understanding the content or context of a message. Write plainly, it helps. Don’t assume anyone will understand what you are saying or trying to communicate.

9. As a rule, I only send a SOFT REMINDER and that’s it. I minimize the number of emails I send on a subject and I will rather follow up with a phone call or SMS. It works. Don’t abuse email!

10. Remember, communication is in 3 dimensions: you, the message (you are communicating), and the recipient.

Nathan Jeffery
Notification Bell