A recent survey by consulting firm Kelton Global indicates that about 90 percent of Americans spend at least 90 minutes a day on email--that's about the same amount of time they spend eating.
Email is especially important to entrepreneurs and business owners, as it is often the primary form of communication with contacts. Relationships can be formed, sustained, or even destroyed through email. Additionally, troublesome email habits can creep into your organization, with results ranging from annoyance to severe frustration.
What are some of the most common email irritations? Here are four, along with easily implemented solutions.
1. You write too much.
According to research by Fractl and Buzzstream, 60 percent of people agree that brief emails are most acceptable, whereas 48 percent think wordiness is mostly unacceptable.
Do your emails include unnecessary details? Maybe you're trying to answer every potential question, or you just can't resist taking a jab at someone.
Years ago, I did some freelance work through an agency for a difficult client. The experience was horrible, and I wrote a detailed email to the owner of the agency (let's call her Liz) to explain why I wouldn't take any more work from this specific customer. I received a reply with the following:
"That doesn't really sound good. But this is life and their way of doing business."
Since I knew Liz and her communication style well, I didn't take it personally. But I did find that second sentence discouraging, and felt she lacked empathy for my situation.
Fix: When writing your email, ask yourself if a specific point or sentence is needed. Does it add any value?
When in doubt, leave it out.
2. You cc everyone. For everything.
As you may know, the term "cc" stands for "carbon copy," and is a throwback to the olden days of office work. Back then, carbon paper was used to make copies of office memos. A list of names (or initials) were included at the bottom of the page, indicating who needed a copy. Some individuals would get copied on almost everything.
As the amount of correspondence has increased significantly, so has the number of people in cc. Many complain they are copied on hundreds of emails a day, leaving them feeling spammed by their own colleagues.
Fix: Only copy people who are directly involved with the topic you're working on, or who have indicated a desire to stay in the loop.
3. You forget email isn't private.
Have you ever received a reply to an email that you actually wrote to someone else, but was then forwarded? As you re-read your original message, this time with the new recipient in mind, you thought: 'Woops. Maybe I should have worded that differently.'
Remember, you never know who's going to end up reading an email. There's even the chance you mistakenly send it to the wrong person.
Dance like no one is watching; email like it may one day be read aloud in a deposition.
4. You forward long message strings.
Tell me if this has ever happened: You receive an email with a message saying 'Hi ___, can you handle this', followed by multiple back and forth messages.
Did you find that annoying?
So does everyone else.
Fix: Instead of simply forwarding an email chain, take a minute to summarize the issue for your reader. Feel free to highlight or quote a relevant passage if you think it will be helpful.
Fix these bad habits today, and you may find replies coming just a little bit quicker.