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Posted: November 21, 2012

Taming the email monster: Part Two

Manage your messages

Dawn Bjork Buzbee

(Editor's note: This is the second of two parts. Read Part One.)

How to Reduce the Volume of Email

Some of the top ways to cut the amount of email you receive are to manage the number of messages you send, reduce unnecessary follow-up replies and determine when person-to-person communication is a better choice.

Decrease the Number of Messages You Send

Before you write your next email, seek to actively reduce how much email you send:

  • Read all replies on a topic before responding to the original message. Resist getting involved with email threads that don’t impact your objectives.
  • Don’t send, and discourage your staff from sending, “chime-in” messages with unimportant responses such as “Thank you” and “You’re welcome.” Don’t respond to junk mail.
  • Avoid Reply to All unless all recipients need to see your response. Otherwise you are contributing to their email litter.
  • Limit the number of people to whom you send a message to those who need to read it.
  • Put people who need to respond or take action on the To line.
  • Put people who need to be informed on the Cc (carbon copy) line. Although it may seem easier to send a message to everyone in a department or your organization, first ask yourself, “Who needs to know? Why?” Most people who get a carbon copy assume there is something they are supposed to do.
  • Use Bcc (blind carbon copy) to hide large distribution lists or to disguise the names of select recipients. All recipients can respond to a message but replies will not be received by anyone in the Bcc list which reduces the amount of email they get. (see Best Practices for Using Bcc below).

Choose Voice Instead of Email

There are often times when phone, face-to-face conversations or even an instant or text message are a much better choice to email. Pick up the phone or arrange a meeting when:

  • Building rapport is critical.
  • The topic is emotionally charged.
  • There are many intertwined issues to resolve or there is a need for lengthy interactive discussions
  • If you want an immediate response, phone or send an instant message.

Best Practices for Using Bcc

  • Plan Ahead. Before you add an intended recipient's name to the Bcc box in a message, make sure the recipient is expecting your message. That person may need to take steps to establish you as a safe sender.Why is this necessary? Using Bcc is a favorite technique of spammers. Therefore, a lot of junk email filters flag messages that use the Bcc box as junk. So if your intended recipient has not added your name to the Safe Senders List in Microsoft Outlook, your message may go straight to the Junk Email folder.
  • Reduce Spam. Although people who send junk email or spam may like to use Bcc, they won't like it if you use it. If you hide the recipients' names by listing them in the Bcc box, no one will be able to copy the recipients' email addresses from your messages.
  • Know Your Limits. Many email service providers set limits for the number of names that can be included in the To, Cc, and Bcc boxes in a message. For example, organization network or your email service provider may limit each message to a maximum of 100 email addresses. If these addresses are distributed among the To, Cc, and Bcc boxes, remember the names in the Bcc box will count toward your total limit. Ask your email service provider or email administrator about the policies for your account.
  • Keep the Recipient List Private. Bcc can help you to be respectful of others' privacy by keeping them in the loop without disclosing their identities. For example, if you send a job announcement to multiple people, you may want to use Bcc to keep the identities of the potential job seekers private.

The Don’ts for Writing Great Email

  1. Don’t send a follow-up message less than a day after the first message. If you don’t hear back in a timely manner, trying picking up the phone.
  2. Don’t use ALL CAPS.
  3. Don’t use sarcasm. Your humor may be misunderstood.
  4. Don’t use stationery.
  5. Don’t send a message when you are angry or frustrated. Better to write it, save it to your Drafts folder, and come back to it later. Or, don’t even write it until later.
  6. Don’t include your manager on every message you send.
  7. Don’t write something you wouldn’t want everyone in your company to read. You never know where your email might end up. If you wouldn’t put it on a postcard, it probably shouldn’t be in an email.
  8. Don’t use read receipts or delivery receipts on every message you send. Use them only if you are unsure if your recipients will receive the message.
  9. Don’t use decorative or funky fonts which can be hard to read.
  10. Don’t attach flags or a High Importance marker to every message you send. Your recipients will learn to ignore them.

Put these techniques to work to create better email messages and to reduce the volume of email you send.

Dawn Bjork Buzbee is The Software Pro® and a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) as well as a certified Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) Master Instructor, certified Microsoft Applications Specialist (MCAS) Instructor, and a certified Microsoft Office expert. Dawn shares smart and easy ways to effectively use software through her work as a speaker, trainer, consultant, and author of 6 books. Discover more software tips, tricks, tactics, and techniques at www.SoftwarePro.com . Contact Dawn at Dawn@SoftwarePro.com  or (303) 699-6868.

Enjoy this article? Sign up to get ColoradoBiz Exclusives. The opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the author and do not represent ColoradoBiz magazine. Comments on articles will be removed if they include personal attacks.

Readers Respond

A few more tips to decide if you should use Bcc (Blind carbon copy) in your outgoing messages from Microsoft Outlook (may not apply to other e-mail systems): - A Bcc recipient will not see their e-mail address in the To or Cc but don't assume they know you are using Bcc. - Some people stay away from Bcc because it can be viewed as deceptive. If a Bcc recipient responds with a Reply to All to the e-mail, all recipients except for other Bcc folks will see their response. Thanks, Sandy, for the e-mail reminding me of this downside. - If you want to include others in a communication, another option is to forward the message after you have sent it to the original recipients. Another step but it separates the two groups of recipients. By Dawn Bjork Buzbee on 2012 11 26
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