How to Control Your E-mail Instead of Letting It Control You

By Michael C. Mack

E-mail can be a productivity killer or, if used wisely, a productivity booster. Here are six tricks culled from LearnVest to make it the latter.

lot of e-mailKeep It Short. According to a 2015 user analysis from e-mail scheduler Boomerang, the messages most likely to get replies were in the range of 50 to 125 words. Productivity expert Chris Bailey, author of The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention and Energy, strategically keeps e-mails to three sentences or less. Anything substantially longer than that should be a phone conversation.

ADDENDUM: Keep your e-mail signature short as well! Better to sign off with just your name than a personal biography!

Remember, Timing Is Everything. E-mails sent at lunchtime or at the beginning of the day get the best response rates, according to the Boomerang study. Try using a service or app to schedule e-mails you write later in the day to go out during prime times the following day to get better responses.

Of course, know the people you’re e-mailing. Some may prefer receiving e-mails later in the day. As in all good communication, it’s your job to help individuals receive your messages.

Wait to Reply. You may reply to some e-mails quickly with a thumbs up, “See you there,” or “I’ll bring cookies.” But other e-mails require more thought and time. It’s OK to sit on an important e-mail for a short while as you formulate a succinct, effective response that communicates well. (You might want to send a quick e-mail letting the sender know you’ll respond shortly, if time is a concern.) As a Christian leader, “wait upon the Lord” to provide you the wisdom needed to respond in a godly, fruitful manner.

Be Winsome. The Boomerang analysis indicated that positive or moderately negative language (words like great or bad) produced 10 to 15 percent more responses than neutrally worded e-mails. But don’t overdo this one!

Create a “Waiting for” Folder. “Whenever you send an important e-mail, it becomes an unresolved uncertainty in your head, which in turn can become a source of mental stress,” says Bailey. Overcrowded in-boxes also cause undue stress. One tool is a “Waiting for” folder you create in your e-mail program. When you send an important e-mail and are awaiting a response, move it from your out-box to this “Waiting for” folder, and scan it as often as you need to keep track of responses. (TIP: mark the folder with an underscore as the first character, like this: _Waiting for. This will keep it at the top of your folder list.)

Use Other Communication Tools. E-mail is just one communication tool in your toolbox. Know when it is the most efficient, productive tool and when it isn’t. Pick up the phone, make a video call for a more personal discussion, or use a project-management system.

You Might Also Like

The Power Room

The Power Room

Technology and the Church

Technology and the Church

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe for Free!

Subscribe to gain free access to all of our digital content,
including our new digital magazine,
and we'll let you know when new digital issues are ready to view!