Do you send emails for tasks only?

Last updated by Tiago Araújo [SSW] about 2 months ago.See history

Email is a very powerful business tool. The main problem, however, is that for most people it is out of control - emails build up until they are impossible to manage. To help minimize mailbox clutter, try these tips:

  • Send emails that contain clear tasks, not banter
  • Don't send emails for chatting
  • If an email you receive is not clear, phone the sender and ask for clarification, then document it in a follow-up email “As per our conversation...” Too many people reply by email asking for more information, which wastes time and does not guarantee a response.
  • If you speak to them, follow this rule: Do you seek clarification via the telephone first?
  • If you can't get through, follow this rule: Do you chase your Product Owner before he has to chase you?
  • If you are attempting to contact this person out of business hours, consider waiting until the next day, or starting your email by mentioning why you are not following this rule e.g. at the top of your email writing:
    "I am not calling you right now as it is out of business hours..."

Using your mailbox as a task list also saves you from having to use inefficient paper-based cards to track your tasks.

Figure: Bad example - A bad email is one that gives no clear action items and will probably lead to a back and forth thread (potentially with people misunderstanding each other)

Figure: Good example - A good email has a clear task to be done (decision was made in-person or via call)

Tip #1: It is better when email is not used as your first choice for communication. Of course, if the person is unavailable, you may have to. In this case, also follow the "as per our conversation" rule E.g. "As per the message I left on your phone... I want to make a decision on... My suggestions is..." and detail the questions you would like answered.

Tip #2: Make sure to number your tasks, if there is more than one, as per "Do you number small tasks related to 1 topic?"

Video: Top 10+ Rules to Better Email Communication with Ulysses Maclaren

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