Take control of your email!
OK, we all know how to use email, but there are always ways we can improve the way we use it. Here are just a few thoughts:
#1. Subject line
Is it clear and relevant? With peoples inboxes bulging at the seams – does it shout ‘I’m relevant: you need to open me’ ? If it contains important info such as an event date – repeat that info in the body of the email – sometimes things get missed when recipients speed read your message.
#2. Attachments first
Making sure you start your email composition by attaching any relevant attachments first can help ensure you don’t send it without them, as well as helping give a structure to the content as you write it.
#3. Be Careful with attachments
Email protocols were never intended to provide an ideal method of transferring files but, more often than not, sending files to colleagues and customers as email attachments is the easiest and quickest way to transfer them. Ease of use is one thing but attachments can take up a huge amount of mail server space, network capacity and are often the culprits behind email viruses.
- Try to keep attachments as small as practical; anything over a few megabytes shouldn’t be sent via email and may well result in the email failing to reach the recipient.
- Limit the number of attached files to five, or fewer.
- Don’t open unexpected attachments, or those sent by unknown parties: they may contain malware.
- Always scan files with a good anti-virus program before opening an attachment – email processed by The Very Good Email Company is scanned for viruses before they reach your inbox. Never click an attachment without first confirming that it’s virus-free.
- Check with the recipient that they can open/process the file format you are sending the attachment in. Is it in a common format? Is it saved in a compatible version state for the software they are using?
#4. Address last!
How many times have you accidentally sent a half completed email? It can be a good idea to add the recipients email address only when the email, along with any attachments, have been checked. Stops an accidental click on the ‘send’ button from causing any embarrassment.
Have you copied everyone in on your email? Send only to those that need to know.
Good practice is to address an email to those that need to take action/reply and simply CC anyone that just needs to be aware. Then it’s easy for individuals to see that a response is required.
Use BCC sparingly; you may copy people in for information using BCC, but they won’t be able to see any replies sent to all, so will only get a part of the ‘picture’. Remember:
- CC – Carbon Copy
- BCC – Blind Carbon Copy
#6. Watch that autocomplete!
OK – most of us have done it at some point – you start typing ‘dave@…’ into the address field in your email client and up pops a ‘dave@’ address via the software’s autocomplete function. It’s so easy, especially when you’re in a hurry, to assume it’s selected the correct address only to find you’ve sent a sensitive internal communication to a customer at a different address. This can be embarrassing at least and result in potential legal issues and cost at worst.
#7. Check links before sending – don’t assume!
It’s good practice to check any email and web addresses included in your emails before you send. Not only does it ensure that you haven’t typed them incorrectly, but also ensures that any links are still live.
#8. Manage your inbox
Simple organisation works wonders! Some people find it easier to file emails in folders under ‘sender’, others by ‘subject’, or project relevance, or a mixture of these. However you organise your inbox it makes finding those emails so much easier in the future! File anything you’ve replied to in a folder and keep your inbox as small as possible.
Of course good email etiquette dictates that you respond to email in a timely fashion with most people expecting a response to a business email within a working day, even if it’s just an acknowledgement of receipt. Don’t forget to set up an ‘out of office’ message if you’re away and give details of alternative contacts in the interim if possible.
If you receive an email thread that contains responses from several people it’s really good practice to read the entire thread before responding.
#9. Viruses, SPAM and Phishing
Email can be a breeding ground for viruses:
- Using some form of anti-virus software, or filtered email services such as those provided by The Very Good Email Company.
- Only open email from trusted sources.
Spam not only slows down the management of email in your inbox, but will also be putting unwelcome loads on your email storage and network which are likely to cause performance issues, or a rise in costs (and maybe both!):
- Be careful where you post your email address online
- Find a good Spam filtering service (OK we’re a little biased – but we believe our filtering platform is one of the best). You’d be amazed how much of a difference effective filtering can make to your email ‘experience’ and productivity.
- Don’t open Spam – even if you’re curious – the sender will most probably be able to see that an email to your address has been opened, thus validating that email address for further Spam emails.
- Likewise if you accidentally open Spam don’t click on ‘unsubscribe’ links unless the sender is a trusted brand, as this also validates your email address to the spammers.
- Those unbelievable offers of millions if you can provide a bank account to facilitate the transfer of funds are just that; unbelievable!
- And requests from banks, credit cards, etc. to ‘update your details’ because your account is ‘on hold’ – either ignore, or check validity with the relevant organisation even if it looks completely above board.
And, please, do all email users a favour; never forward chain messages! As well as chewing up time, network capacity and storage space, they often reveal colleagues’ email addresses to other parties.
#10. Archive your email
Email is the life-blood of any organisation so it’s imperative that your email is backed up in a safe place; not only to meet legal compliance, but also for your own sanity. Email archiving solutions such as MessageBunker provide simple, secure, in-the-cloud email archiving and discovery at low cost and allow you to be ruthless in clearing out your inbox without fear of losing important emails.