THE NEW EMAIL ETIQUETTE
In 2018, we WILL quit trying to conquer our email inbox
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.