Looking for some easy ways to save time and build a happier workplace? Changes in communication can have dramatically positive results! Clear communication doesn’t necessarily happen on its own, but it can be as simple as creating some new habits and then you’re off and running as a communication champion. Today, we’re specifically looking at some common email pitfalls.
First, do you read your messages? The answer seems obvious, but the question is not necessarily so simple. The days never seem to have enough hours, so it can be very easy to scan emails quickly. Unfortunately, you can miss some key details and actually spend more time fixing an error than you would have spent reading the initial email thoroughly.
For example, convinced I already knew what the instructions were for a new required form, I did a quick scan of the email before incorporating the document into my daily routine. Unfortunately, my speed reading missed important words, so I was actually doing the exact opposite of what the email instructed! Not only did I feel pretty sheepish when I had to apologize, but I also had to follow up with everyone I gave that form to so they could correct my error. All this could have been avoided if I had just read the instructions rather than doing a quick scan.
Admittedly, some individuals have not quite mastered the art of writing detailed but brief email messages. So yes, there will be times where you have to wade through a very dense email to find the key messages and points. And even in those cases, the time savings will still be greater if you force yourself to stay focused with the email. If nothing else, these emails can serve as your inspiration to ensure that you always write pithy messages!
This, of course, segues nicely into some thoughts on the art of crafting emails. There are typically two extreme ends of this spectrum: the 1-word email and the 500-word message. In some cases, the 1-word email is actually sufficient. But what about instances where the composer of the email has asked multiple questions? In this case, the one-word answer is confusing and incomplete. That individual is then forced to write back (or call) to follow up for clarification. Or he/she could take option B and move forward without the answers, operating instead on assumptions. But in any case, both individuals involved end up spending unnecessary time on damage control.
And if you’re the culprit of the 500-word email, focus on the real key points/questions. In some cases, the long email is necessary. And when you realize the lengthy nature of your email, maybe it would actually be easier to just pick up the phone and hash things out quickly that way?
But if you absolutely must communicate this long message via email, it’s key to break down your thoughts/questions with bullet points, keeping each item separate and easy to read. While it’s the reader’s job to treat your words with respect and read the whole document, it’s helpful if you can perform your due diligence by making the long document as accessible as possible to your readers.
So in the end, it seems that we have some responsibility both as readers and as writers! While it may seem daunting at first, it’s nothing that a little self-reflection and intention can’t tackle. So don’t wait! Start saving time today by using fabulous email etiquette every day!