This post is part of our Weekly-ish Tips series.
I’m not the only one who struggles to manage email. Recall the McKinsey study revealing that the average “interaction worker” spends 28% of work week managing email. (I’m not sure what an “interaction worker” is, but I’m pretty sure I am one.) This equates to nearly three hours per day, on average. Add meetings on top of that, along with the actual work we’re expected to get done, and we’ve got a reliability crisis on our hands.
I haven’t found the silver bullet for this challenge yet, but I have found some resources I wanted to share. A quick Google search for “how to manage the email madness” reveals quick help like:
- The HBR article on how to spend way less time on email every day. My favorite tip is the first one: simply check it less often. Though that’s easier said than done for us dopamine addicts—that’s the pleasure hormone that gets released when we check email.
- The Fast Company article that reveals that some email apps have a snooze function, so a message that can’t be dealt with in under a minute can re-present itself at a better time. I love this. I only wish Outlook was one of those apps.
Long-time readers know I’m a big fan of distinctive email auto-replies as a way to both manage expectations about your responsiveness and be in touch, in a way, even when you’re out of touch.
I think my all-time favorite expectation management approach, though, got delivered to my own inbox just last week. It was embedded in my client’s reply to an email I sent him. His signature line includes this paragraph, which appears BEFORE his actual signature, so it shows up right under the body of his message:
I really like this. It’s empathetic. Focused on his commitment to having an impact. And bold.
I sometimes use a wimpier version in my email signature block (it’s buried under all my contact info):
I can certainly be better with my own email management. I do think setting and managing expectations is a big part of dealing with the reliability challenge. We advocate a lot in our workshops for the value of a quick and simple “I’m on the case” reply (or a “Yikes, can’t get back to you until Friday” reply).
I also just plain long for the olden days of actual conversations, when things are really important.
Make It Real
This week, look for small ways you might be a more reliable emailer. Or if you’re really good at it, share your wisdom with someone … though preferably not via email LOL.
Read about the benefit of returning calls unbelievably fast, from our friends at Trusted Advisor Associates, or brush up on all the ways to accelerate your trustworthiness in Chapter 21 of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook.
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