Love it or hate it (I’m guessing the latter) we spend a large part of our workday reading and responding to emails. In a recent study, McKinsey Global Institute found 28 percent of the workweek is spent reading and responding to email. Because email is such a big part of our job most of us have created email goals in hopes of keeping us productive (and if you haven’t you should do this immediately).
However, chances are these goals aren’t lofty enough resulting in you never quite getting ahead of your email challenges. Wouldn’t it be great if you could tweak your email goals and behaviors and see instant long-term benefits? Well, you can!
The problem: Your email goals are not big enough
Standard email goals typically consist of responding within 24 hours, keeping our inbox at a reasonable level, and keeping our emails and email files up to date and organized. These are solid objectives that will produce ordinary results and allow you to preserve a credible reputation amongst your internal and external customers.
If you are satisfied with just maintaining your inbox and reputation then there is no need to read further, but if you are looking for ways to get ahead of email productivity traps while enhancing your image, you’re in luck. If we spend hours upon hours a day in our inbox we might as well reap as many benefits as we can, right?
The solution: Be an email hero
When I think of a hero I picture someone who exudes courage and protects others without the expectation of a material gain. What makes a hero so memorable is their strong commitment to serving a person or their community even though there may be risk involved. These same concepts can be applied to your day to day email approach.
Heroes look after people and shield them from negative situations. You should do the same.
- If you can avoid adding someone to an email by taking responsibility to follow-up with them when the issue is resolved, do it.
- If someone no longer belongs on an email string, take them off rather than clicking “reply all”.
- If someone is having a hard time communicating their needs via email, offer to help them write their next response.
- If someone sends a “I haven’t heard back from so and so yet” email jump in if it’s appropriate, apologize for the wait, and own the issue (even though it’s not technically “your” issue).
Once you start looking out for others, others will do the same. Before you know it, you will start to receive fewer emails and will notice others acting as your hero when you need saving.
It’s a hero’s duty to go above and beyond to assist others. When you write an email keep this responsibility in mind.
- Take the time to understand your audience. What are their needs? What information will benefit them most? What information don’t they need?
- Remember to add positive greetings to your email and always convey your appreciation.
- Ensure your emails are visually appealing. Use bullets and bolded statements, avoid spelling errors, have a clear subject line, and keep your email as short and to the point as possible.
- Offer to help others with their struggles by volunteering to edit important email drafts and by passing along email productivity tips you have learned over the years.
By giving others a great email experience you decrease the chance of someone misunderstanding your message while also increasing your chances of receiving a positive, timely, and as equally helpful response back.
Exude courage and take a risk
If you witness bad email behavior or something that isn’t working be brave and take action.
- Has an email chain become overly confusing, long, or emotional? If so, take the lead by suggesting the back and forth emails stop and then offer to set -up a meeting.
- Is someone being unresponsive or pushy via email? Call them out on it (professionally of course).
- Is there an email template being used that is outdated, hard on the eyes, and tedious to fill out? Raise your hand and offer to improve it.
Co-workers will be impressed by your bold and courageous efforts to make their world a better place. This behavior will also have others looking to you as a role model.
It’s time to put on your cape
Once you become an Email Hero you will experience increased productivity and satisfaction while strengthening your workplace bonds. Even more exciting though is the opportunity to inspire others to be Email Heroes and other types of heroes in the office and beyond.
Danielle Clark is a human resources manager with more than 10 years of HR and customer service experience in healthcare and retail organizations. Her work with Fortune 500 companies, in addition to a diverse professional and academic background, has trained Clark to be results-driven, people-focused and a thought-provoking leader. Her goal is to educate and inspire professionals to change their way of thinking. She is also an adjunct professor, active community volunteer, wife, mother and passionate lifelong learner.