Some Best Practice Considerations
Who to Contact?
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- Write a meaningful subject line.
- Keep the message focused.
- Avoid attachments.
- Identify yourself clearly.
- Be kind — don’t flame.
- Don’t assume privacy.
- Distinguish between formal and informal situations.
- Respond Promptly.
- Show Respect and Restraint.
Due to limitations in electronic mail systems generally, electronic mail cannot be kept confidential with certainty and can be readily redistributed.
Employees and students must be aware that the correspondence and discussion into which they enter when using the email and other resources on Harding University’s network may be construed to be representative of the University.
Where employees and students do not have the authority or are not aware of the University's position or where their personal views may vary from that of the University, such correspondence must clearly state that the opinion expressed is that of the writer, and not necessarily that of the University, or words to that effect.
The following is taken from the Harvard Business Review Blog - Stop Email Overload - Harvard Business Review
HBR Blog Network / Best Practices
Stop Email Overload
by Amy Gallo | 2:02 PM February 21, 2012
Complaints about email abound. Perhaps you've heard some of these or uttered them in pain yourself: I receive hundreds of emails a day. I can spend my whole day responding to incoming messages. I can't find anything in my inbox. In response, some companies are taking drastic steps to help workers manage the number of messages they receive. The CEO of Atos, a French IT services company, has vowed to ban internal email by 2013. Volkswagen in Germany has agreed to stop sending emails to certain employees after work hours. If these companies are taking radical action, is it time for you to do the same to counter your own overload?
What the Experts Say. Productivity experts counsel against such extreme measures. Email is certainly a threat to efficiency, says David Allen, a consultant and the author of Getting Things Done and Making It All Work, but he maintains that it's also an essential work tool. "I've had email since 1983. I couldn't live the life I live without it," he says. Bob Pozen, a senior lecturer of business administration at Harvard Business School and author of "Extreme Productivity" agrees. Even if you wanted to use it less, he says, it's nearly impossible to get people by phone or in person these days. Both Pozen and Allen believe that sweeping rules like the ones Atos and VW are trying are not necessary. You can regain control over your email, and reduce its insidious effects on your productivity, by looking at the root causes of the problem and then following a few straightforward rules.
Recognize it's not really about email. According to Allen, email overload is only a symptom of a larger issue: a lack of clear and effective protocols. If your organization has ambiguous decision-making processes and people don't get what they need from their colleagues, they'll flood the system with email and meeting requests. People then get mired down in their backlog, which leads to even more email and meeting requests from frustrated co-workers trying to follow up.
Allen had one client who had an average backlog of 3,000 – 4,000 emails. When he finally cleared and stayed on top of his inbox, both his email traffic and his meeting load went down. His colleagues got the direction and input they needed so they didn't need to hound him. "Email handled well reduces meetings. And meetings handled well reduces emails," Allen says. Taking the time to reply now can save you twice the time in the future.
Control your flow. Another way to reduce the time you spend on email is to turn off the spigot of incoming messages. There are obvious practices that help, such as unsubscribing to e-newsletters or turning off notifications from Facebook or Twitter. But you may also want to reconsider whether your colleagues or direct reports are copying you on too many "for your information" emails. If so, simply explain that you only need to be updated at certain times or when a final decision is made.
Pozen says you can also reduce how many you receive by sending fewer and limiting whom you send to. Resist the temptation to send one-word messages such as "Thanks!" Don't hit "Reply All" unless everyone needs to hear what you have to say. Don't rely on email to make big decisions or to sort through complex issues, such as policy changes, that will warrant tons of back and forth. Know what is better handled face to face or by phone. By modeling good email practice, you can encourage those around you to only send messages when it's necessary and appropriate.
Clear out your inbox and keep it clean. No matter how much you do the above, it's still possible you'll have a clogged inbox. You've probably read much of the advice about managing email, but some of it bears repeating. Start by emptying out your inbox. If you have thousands of messages in your main folder, create a new folder called "Old Inbox" and put the messages in there. You still have access to them if need be but you will be able to handle incoming messages more easily without the clutter staring back at you.
Once you've gotten to zero messages (or at least close to it), commit to sorting through new email right away. Use the following three steps:
Delete. Glance over your inbox and delete any messages you don't need to read or keep: calendar invites, advertisements, etc. "You ought to be able to discard 80% of them just by looking at the title," says Pozen.
Respond. If you can reply to a message in a few minutes or less, go ahead and do that. "If you put it off, you lose time by trying to find it, or remembering what you wanted to say," says Pozen.
File. For the rest of your messages, decide where they should go. Put them into folders or use flags or labels to indicate how high priority they are and when you need to respond by.
Choose a handful of times during the day when you will review your inbox. If you do it every five minutes, you'll end up spending your whole day on email. But don't try to go cold turkey either. Checking your email only once or twice a day is impractical. "Most people who send an email are looking for a response quickly," says Pozen.
Be careful with rules. According to both Allen and Pozen, sweeping policies that effect a broad population of workers and dictate how and when they check email are not realistic, nor likely to be effective. "Why hamstring your employees with silly rules?," says Allen. Plus policies like these don't always stick. "It's hard to come up with mechanical rules that work for everyone," says Pozen.
That doesn't mean all rules are bad however. You can develop guidelines for yourself and those you interact with. Encourage others to limit emails to only those who have an action item. Have open discussions about how you will communicate about specific topics. "Try to reach agreement with the group on what's reasonable to send and receive," says Pozen.
Take an occasional break. Since email is such a constant presence in our lives, it can be rejuvenating to disconnect from all things digital once in a while. Some do this whenever they go on vacation. Others take a deliberate "email sabbatical." "It's always a good idea to untangle yourself from intense interactive engagements every once in a while just to prove you're not hopelessly addicted and get some fresh air," says Allen. Of course, this strategy isn't for everyone: "If you're constantly distracted by what you might be missing, you're way better off spending as much time as you need to handle it," says Allen.
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