In 2018, we WILL quit try­ing to con­quer our email in­box

ELLE (Australia) - - Contents -

Con­quer e- rage – be­fore you hit “send” on that email, read up on these new golden rules.

Last March, writer Melissa Fe­bos posed a ques­tion via an es­say in lit­er­ary mag­a­zine Cat­a­pult: “Do you want to be known for your writ­ing, or for your swift email re­sponses?” She ar­gued that the so­lu­tion to our be­ing over­whelmed by emails isn’t to bow down to the in­creas­ingly ac­cepted ex­pec­ta­tion of im­me­di­ate re­sponse. She was onto some­thing.

Re­search sug­gests we spend around

13 hours per week read­ing and re­spond­ing to emails. As author and en­tre­pre­neur Tim Fer­riss puts it, “Email eats so much time. First, be­cause it’s every­one else’s agenda for your time, of­ten in­clud­ing man­u­fac­tured emer­gen­cies. Sec­ond, email al­lows you to fool your­self into think­ing you’re be­ing pro­duc­tive.” Ba­si­cally put, we have an email eti­quette prob­lem. We are ei­ther plac­ing our own im­por­tance ahead of others, or cre­at­ing more work for every­one by pre­tend­ing to be pro­duc­tive.

At this point, it’s al­most a given our email will con­tinue to spi­ral out of con­trol. In 2017, the es­ti­mated num­ber of global email users was 3.7 bil­lion, with the num­ber of emails sent per day pro­jected to reach a mas­sive

269 bil­lion (up 64 bil­lion on 2015). What we need is to set new rules to help us send and (please, dear God) re­ceive less. Pri­ori­tis­ing work of im­por­tance while still man­ag­ing emails comes down to a choice to be im­per­fect at the lat­ter. With that in mind, here’s the 2018 guide to email eti­quette…

From: ELLE Aus­tralia Sent: Mon­day, Jan­uary 1, 2018 at 12.39pm To: Every­one Sub­ject: New year, new in­box

1. Ex­er­cise agency: On av­er­age, peo­ple re­spond to an email no­ti­fi­ca­tion within six sec­onds, but each in­ter­rup­tion re­quires up to nine min­utes of men­tal re­cov­ery. The Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia found when peo­ple checked email out of their own vo­li­tion rather than be­ing prompted, they re­ported higher pro­duc­tiv­ity. Want to get out the door on time? Switch no­ti­fi­ca­tions off.

2. Don’t apol­o­gise: That vi­ral tweet, “Adult­hood is email­ing ‘Sorry for the de­layed re­sponse!’ back and forth un­til one of you dies”, has never felt more rel­e­vant. Most emails don’t have dead­lines, so why apol­o­gise? Rather than the onus be­ing on the re­cip­i­ent, be­come a bet­ter sender. State a dead­line if you have one, and if not, let’s cut each other some slack. A good al­ter­na­tive to apol­o­gis­ing: “Thank you for your pa­tience.”

3. Check your­self: The more we send, the more we re­ceive. Cull nicety-only replies such as “Great, thanks” and keep emails to five sen­tences or less. Write a clear sub­ject line and en­sure the first sen­tence pro­vides the rea­son for email­ing, the ac­tion re­quired and any time sen­si­tiv­ity.

4. Re­think the au­to­matic re­sponse: It’s use­ful for set­ting ex­pec­ta­tions, but can be con­de­scend­ing. Avoid busy-brag­ging about your over­loaded in­box and only in­clude in­for­ma­tion that makes the next email in­ter­ac­tion smoother – eg. links to FAQS or what times you check your in­box and an­swer emails (see Zoë Fos­ter Blake: “I now check it twice daily, and re­ply only to those that are crit­i­cal. Or from Bey­oncé”). A lit­tle hu­mour also goes a long way in smooth­ing over any e-rage upon re­ceiv­ing your OOO. Mean­while, you’ll be sip­ping Aperol by the Aegean.

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