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Emails – saving or waste of time?

Hardly anybody can imagine business life today without emails. We often consider them as an essential time saver: quickly written, quickly sent, quickly replied. That's how we wish them to be ideally. However, what if this "one quick email" becomes 20, 30, even 50 or more emails a day? Immediately after the 'Ping' that tells you an email is waiting in your inbox, a response is often required.
It's undisputable that emails are a facilitation of our business life, and many of us spend more than 20% of working time dealing with emails. All the more important that we use emails to really facilitate our work instead of hindering it.
  1. Always use a clear subject in the subject line
  2. Include only one subject per mail
  3. Change the subject when changing the topic
  4. Use an appropriate letter style and proper grammar
  5. Formulate question/message clearly
  6. Delete parts of messages that are no longer relevant
  7. Only put persons in the 'TO' field who you expect an answer from the rest on 'CC'
  8. Email as few people as possible - think about who really MUST be on 'CC'
  9. Read your message again before you send it to check comprehensibility
  10. Reply only to those concerned by your answer, not always 'reply all'
  11. Use rules to redirect 'CC-mails' into a separate folder
Dr. Jackson from Loughborough University, England, found that a person that is interrupted from their current task by an email will need about 64 seconds to focus back on the original task. Assuming 30 incoming emails on an eight hour working day, that's 2.7 hours of inefficient work a week. Compare this with your printing press: what would you say if your press produced only waste sheets on Mondays from 8:00 am-10:30 am at full production cost?
But the problem is not only that employees' concentration is affected by emails, it is also time that is wasted reading messages that are actually irrelevant for the reader or unclear, and thus trigger further inquiries. Also, the email threads that are formulated but are not necessary to understand the topic of the email are a typical time killer. A study among 180 managers identified 32% of the incoming emails as irrelevant for the recipient . The trend is especially evident by emails that include a decision or a decision making process, that put many people on copy, in order to spread the responsibility for the decision.
Efficient email communication is not hard to learn. You can easily train your staff on email efficiency and make your company a more efficient work place in which emails save time instead of wasting it. The tips above can help you with this. And don't forget, sometimes the 'old fashioned' communication channels like the telephone work the best!
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