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Most Hated Email Habits — And What You Can Do Instead

by Ana Lopez
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By Dianna Booher—

Now that your email inbox is filled with holiday greetings, reminders, strategic meetings about this or that, can we all agree to make communication easier this year?

To begin with, let’s look at what our colleagues and friends don’t like to hear from you (okay, not you personally, but those other people who annoy them).

According to a recent research by LiveCareer from over 1,000 participants, here are some of the top transgressions:

  • Sending an email without a personal greeting
  • Start an email with a general “Hey”, “Hello There”, “Hello”, or “To Whom It May Concern”
  • Signing an email with “Sincerely”, “Greetings”, “Love”, “Thanks”
  • Starting an email with “I’m not sure if you’ve seen my last email”
  • Start an email with “According to my latest email”
  • Mention in email: “Let’s take this offline”

As it turns out, not much has changed in the past five years regarding communication and email habits and attitudes. In 2018, our own company, Booher Research Institute, did a similar study and reported very similar results in the book Faster, fewer, better emails.

  • Many employees (40 percent) are still spends 2-3 hours each day reading and replying to emails.
  • Nearly half (49 percent) still check their business emails outside of work hours.
  • More than a third (38 percent) do never have completely emptied their inbox!

The hard truth: Four in ten employees spend anywhere from three weeks to more than a month (520-780 hours) each year handling business email!

That’s a productivity problem. An important! Not to mention the total breakdown of clear communication getting action. According to both studies, the more emails we send, the more we ignore!

So how do you get past this dilemma of meaningless emails cluttering your inbox and your life?

Here’s a checklist for changing your productive communication habits:

  1. Check your email only 1-2 times a day. To stay responsive, check and answer your email right before or after lunch and again about half an hour before your workday ends. If you respond during lunch, people will receive your answer the same day. If you respond at the end of the day, your email will be in their mailbox the next morning.
  2. Keep your email software closed when not in use. Every time you hear a notification or see a new message waiting for you, it disrupts your thinking about the current project. And if you succumb to actually responding directly to that incoming message, you’re distracting yourself even further.
  3. Stop replying to group emails with a meaningless comment. With replies that say no more than “Thanks,” “Sounds great,” or “Nothing to add,” you’re just hiding 17 or 27 other inboxes from those on the copy list.
  4. Come from distribution lists that no longer apply to you or that you are not interested in. Yes, it’s faster to just delete those emails than to scroll down, find the tiny “unsubscribe” link and see the popup and respond to why you want off the list. That is, it is faster if you only have to delete once. Unfortunately, simply deleting is not faster in the next 7 years! Be the fish that escaped!
  5. Instruct you real want to hear from to send emails, not texts. Once you’ve cut out the non-essential email clutter, emails have two major advantages over texts: you can save and archive the email for future reference while you complete a project. (Compliance officers face a growing problem with those who primarily use texts: no easy trace or evidence in tricky situations.) Yes, you can save a string, but once you open it and read it, you won’t see it to remind you. remind about important dates, deadlines and tasks. If an incoming email is tagged and in your calendar for review, it serves as a quick reminder and reference. Upside down? Texts are usually read faster than emails. But the downside? They are also easier to lose.
  6. Stop training colleagues to ignore your emails. By routinely sending reminders about dates, events, and deadlines, you ultimately show your recipients not to act quickly or take responsibility for their own schedule. You do that voluntarily for them. How? Send reminders, reminders and more reminders. As soon as colleagues miss an important event or deadline, they learn that they must take immediate action.

Make a decision to clean up so you can focus on important tasks! Your career may depend on it!

Dianna Booher is the bestselling author of 49 books. Her latest is Faster, fewer, better emails. She helps organizations to communicate clearly. Follow her at BooherResearch.com and @DiannaBooher.

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