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Author Topic: Compulsive e-mailing and e-mail etiquette
Michelle
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posted 20 May 2007 03:54 AM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I've been meaning to start this thread for a long time. Judes gave me a fantastic article from a seminar she took, called "E-mail Aikido". I can't find it online. But anyhow, it's all about how people who use e-mail a lot are becoming defeated by their inboxes, and how to get control over your e-mail instead of letting it control you.

This article by Leah McLaren captures the problem quite well, although she doesn't get very deep into the solution for it.

So, how do you manage the e-mail in your life? Do you have tons of it? Do you have very little of it? How do you organize it?

My personal approach - lots of folders and a ton of "rules" so that when it comes in, it automatically goes to the right folder. The only e-mails I (supposedly) keep in my inbox are ones that need an action, whether to write back, follow up, etc. I fall behind, though - I currently have 26 e-mails in my inbox currently, however, because I haven't moved the ones that have been dealt with to the proper folders.

Another big thing in this E-mail Aikido article is not just dealing with YOUR e-mail overload, but also becoming a good cybercitizen and not contributing to OTHERS' e-mail overload. I think everyone has someone in their working or personal life who will clutter up your inbox with stuff you don't need to see, don't need to respond to, copying you on everything whether necessary or not, sending you e-mails asking you to do something that would have taken them the same amount of time to do as it took them to write you the e-mail, etc.

There are some really good ways to make sure that you aren't that kind of poor cybercitizen to your e-mail contacts.

1. Don't forward crap to people, even if you think they really need to see it. Yes, that means your pseudoreligious bullshit that you think I need to see for the good of my soul, or the right-wing moronic talk radio bullshit that you think will get my back up, or the generic friendship poem you thought was so cute. Just don't! Only if it's specifically interesting to that person because of their specific interest in a certain subject (or if you're close and a joke hits a certain "in-joke" chord) do you forward it!

2. Make your e-mail subject line as descriptive as possible so people can tell from a glance at their inbox what you're writing about. If your e-mail is about the party on Friday night, put "Party on Friday night" in the subject line, not "Hey" or "Whazzzzuuuuuuup?" or whatever. At work, if you're passing along something for someone's information, don't put "FYI" in the subject line - use a phrase that describes the information.

3. Don't copy the entire planet on your e-mail unless they need to see it! All workplaces have a different e-mail "copy culture" but I tend to lean towards not copying someone unless there's a specific reason for doing so.

4. Don't spend time composing an e-mail asking someone to do something if you can do it for yourself in the same amount of time it took you to compose the e-mail.

5. If you're on an e-mail list that is set up primarily for working purposes, don't clutter it up with off-topic or inane e-mails. Obviously each working culture will vary on this one, depending on the size of the list and the number of tasks that need to be accomplished through the list.


From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Phrillie
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posted 20 May 2007 02:24 PM      Profile for Phrillie        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Michelle! I thought at first your post must be a quote from the article. You should copyright that because it's gold. But, please, add one more: DON'T hit "Reply All" unless you actually mean "Reply All." Ugh.
From: Salt Spring Island, BC | Registered: Mar 2007  |  IP: Logged
JayPotts
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posted 28 May 2007 10:17 AM      Profile for JayPotts   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Amen to this list.....I am going to email it to all the people in my address book...

[ 28 May 2007: Message edited by: JayPotts ]

[ 29 May 2007: Message edited by: JayPotts ]


From: Toronto | Registered: Feb 2007  |  IP: Logged
Southlander
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posted 28 May 2007 12:12 PM      Profile for Southlander     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by JayPotts:
Amen to this list.....I am doing to email it to all the people in my address book...

[ 28 May 2007: Message edited by: JayPotts ]


lol me too


From: New Zealand | Registered: Sep 2005  |  IP: Logged
Stargazer
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posted 28 May 2007 12:28 PM      Profile for Stargazer     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Freaking great rules! I can't stand all of the blasted forwards, or the Reply All or anything like that. I don't care about cute cats, power point presentations on work sucking, notices to send the forwarded e-mail to 15 of my friends or I will have bad luck, etc. I have a rule set up specifically for certain people who do that to me. All of their stuff goes to Junk. If they can't take the time to personalize and send me an e-mail then I don't have time to read their mass forwards. Not to mention those forwards show up in my inbox with each and every other person's e-mail address in them. That is not cool and a breach of privacy.
From: Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist. | Registered: Jun 2004  |  IP: Logged
Michelle
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posted 28 May 2007 12:49 PM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Yeah, I didn't even get into the BCC thing. I have a couple of people who constantly use the "To" instead of "Bcc" for their mass e-mailings too. Although, I say that blushing. Today I sent out a mass e-mail AT WORK using the To line instead of the Bcc line. My stomach flipped when I realized what I did! I had reason to send out a second e-mail to the same list, though, so I apologized for it in that one.

One rule I've started trying to go with is brevity. If someone sends an e-mail asking a question, state the answer quickly and shortly and just hit send and go. No pussyfooting around. If you don't know, say, "I'm sorry, I don't know." Or, if someone asks you to do something, your acknowledgement can be two words if you'd like: "Okay. Michelle"

This is for work, obviously, where you're using e-mail as a tool. You probably want to be a little more chatty with friends.

Probably some of you have noticed that if I'm on a private-message-answering-roll, you might get a one or two line response from me. It's not about rudeness, it's just about ploughing through, giving you an answer, and moving on to the next one. Or, if the message doesn't really require an answer (or if I deal with the problem you're writing about in the thread), I'll either briefly say, "Thanks for the heads up," or something like that. And, of course, sometimes I fall behind and forget to acknowledge private messages for two or three weeks.

Another interesting tip from this: if you just have a quick thing to tell someone by e-mail, consider just using the subject line. I often get e-mail messages that just say something like, "Did you do such-and-such?" in the subject line, and a blank message. My response? "Yes." Done!

It's great when you work with people who are all on the same page when it comes to e-mailing etiquette. I have often thought it would be extremely worthwhile for offices to hold seminars on how to manage e-mail, including some strong content on how to be a good cybercitizen.


From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Michelle
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posted 28 May 2007 12:51 PM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by JayPotts:
Amen to this list.....I am doing to email it to all the people in my address book...

Oh man. I didn't even get this when I first read it. Ha!


From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Blondin
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posted 29 May 2007 11:02 AM      Profile for Blondin     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I'm amazed that, after all these years, there are still people who think the Neiman Markus cookie story is for real. I received it twice in the past week.
From: North Bay ON | Registered: Sep 2005  |  IP: Logged
Polly Brandybuck
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posted 29 May 2007 11:46 AM      Profile for Polly Brandybuck     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
It's not? Damn.
From: To Infinity...and beyond! | Registered: Dec 2004  |  IP: Logged
Michelle
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posted 21 March 2008 07:51 AM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Hey, that article I was talking about in my opening post? The wisdom in it was culled from posts by Merlin Mann, from 43 Folders.

Here's the web site, and an article on "writing sensible e-mail messages".

Honestly, I think that the main problem with people's e-mail overload isn't technological, although there are some good tips for organizing your e-mail so you can deal with it. I think the main problem is social and work culture.

If your organization has a culture of micromanaging, you're going to see it in people's inboxes. If your organization doesn't put emphasis on teaching people how to use their work tools efficiently, you're going to see it in people's inboxes.

Personally, I think workplaces are going to have to start having actual workshops with employees AND management - compulsory attendance for everyone - on e-mail management, etiquette and culture.


From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Proaxiom
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posted 21 March 2008 08:30 AM      Profile for Proaxiom     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I gave up sorting into folders a couple of years ago. I have only two folders now: Inbox, and Archived.

Inbox is where e-mails I haven't read, or haven't responded to, or otherwise have to deal with in some way.

Archived is where everything else goes. It grows by a few thousand e-mails a year.

How do I find things I need? Google Desktop. I find things in my e-mail the same way I find things on the Internet, using search queries.

Sorting e-mails I find to be a time waster.


From: East of the Sun, West of the Moon | Registered: Jun 2004  |  IP: Logged
Michelle
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posted 21 March 2008 08:37 AM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Do you use gmail? What's google desktop? Never heard of it before.

Never mind, just googled it.

I think that the idea of my stuff just being all in one folder, with only a search engine to find things, would really make me feel disorganized. Especially if I don't know exactly what I'm looking for, but remember that it was an e-mail about such-and-such a project which is in the folder I created for that project at the time.

I'm really big on making lots of folders, and keeping them organized in active and non-active places.

So, at my day job, where I'm an admin assistant and not only do all the office tasks, but also do a lot of event planning, and where I work half-time for two different departments, it's vital that I be able to organize all my e-mails into broad subjects and then more specific ones.

My folders are first divided into Department one and Department 2.

Then in Department one, I have subfolders for general types of work I do: Events, Accounts, Research, Supplies, E-mail List Maintenance, etc.

Then under those subfolders I might have subfolders if necessary. My Events subfolder has subfolders of its own, for each event. And I name those subfolders according to date and title of event, so that I can see at a glance when the events are happening in order to prioritize. A typical one might be "Jan 26-08 - TSF/WSF 2008". And then I dump all the e-mails into that folder.

If it's a small event, I leave it at that. But if it's a huge event that requires a crapload of e-mails to plan, then I even divide the sub-subfolder into yet more subfolders: "Accounts" "Room Booking" "AV" "Publicity" etc.

It sounds really complicated and freaky, but you'd be amazed at how easy and organized it makes everything, and when I'm in the midst of trying to do 12 things at once to organize the event, and everything is done by e-mail (as things tend to be done these days!) I can immediately find the e-mail that way, even if I don't remember any exact phrases from the e-mail itself in order to do a search.

[ 21 March 2008: Message edited by: Michelle ]


From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Proaxiom
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posted 21 March 2008 08:49 AM      Profile for Proaxiom     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Google Desktop is an application you can download that indexes files on your hard drive to make them searchable. If you use a compatible mail client like Outlook or Thunderbird then it will put a search bar in it.

So if I know I got an e-mail at some point from Jane Smith about a jambalaya recipe, I just type into the bar

code:
from:"jane smith" jamabalaya

, and then I get a pop-up with results.

Google Desktop also indexes word documents, excel spreadsheets, PDFs, etc for finding things on your hard drive.


From: East of the Sun, West of the Moon | Registered: Jun 2004  |  IP: Logged
Michelle
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posted 21 March 2008 08:54 AM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I see what you mean. See my edit above.

I'm not sure that would work for me at work. I work on projects and event planning that generate hundreds of e-mails per day.

And not everyone writes descriptive subject lines, and we have a lot of one-liner e-mails about this or that aspect which would be hard to find on keyword searches. So that's where I find folders invaluable.


From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
rural - Francesca
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posted 21 March 2008 09:24 AM      Profile for rural - Francesca   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I'm a huge believer in folders too.

I just had to look at my staff's computer as she's away for a while, she keeps only paper copies of stuff.

there have been many words I've used this week, none of them are polite


From: the backyard | Registered: Dec 2007  |  IP: Logged
martin dufresne
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posted 21 March 2008 09:38 AM      Profile for martin dufresne   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
A pet peeve: People who systematically ask "Please acknowledge reception of this e-mail" box in their e-mail program. I HATE being told what to do with their (often inane) mail... and don't acknowledge reception unless it's really important.
From: "Words Matter" (Mackinnon) | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged
Proaxiom
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posted 21 March 2008 09:46 AM      Profile for Proaxiom     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I sort of use folders in my Gmail account, but they're not really folders, their labels. The main difference is that a single e-mail can have multiple labels applied to it. But I only use them where they can be applied automatically based on filter rules (which can be done with Outlook folders, too). One use is mailing lists, where I have a rule that identifies the mailing list in the To: field and sorts accordingly.

I bet a lot of folder people would become search people if they tried it. I can see how it would be scary for a huge volume (my 20 to 30 e-mails a day is light compared to some). I'll admit I was using this method for some time with my Gmail account before I decided to use it on my Outlook account.


From: East of the Sun, West of the Moon | Registered: Jun 2004  |  IP: Logged
Stargazer
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posted 21 March 2008 11:24 AM      Profile for Stargazer     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I'm like you Michelle. I have a lot of folders and just keep my inbox for e-mails that have not yet been dealt with. I also have archive folders from 2004 to 2008 in which I keep all my old e-mails. I also have subfolders as well for various projects.

Regarding subjects for e-mails - I tend to put in the subject line and then a -Not Spam beside it so as to miss anyone's spam folder.

I also do not like read receipts at all.


From: Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist. | Registered: Jun 2004  |  IP: Logged
Scott Piatkowski
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posted 21 March 2008 11:35 AM      Profile for Scott Piatkowski   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Michelle:
Do you use gmail? What's google desktop? Never heard of it before.

Warning: It's a massive system resource hog, which is why I've deleted it. Don't download it unless you are prepared for a slow down (or have the world's fastest computer).


From: Kitchener-Waterloo | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
TemporalHominid
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posted 21 March 2008 01:03 PM      Profile for TemporalHominid   Author's Homepage        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I find g-mail a great tool for what I need, I prefer it over hotmail (yuck) and outlook

google desktop is something I am not familiar with


From: Under a bridge, in Foot Muck | Registered: Jul 2004  |  IP: Logged
Michelle
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posted 21 March 2008 03:48 PM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I never, ever, EVER return "read receipts". Ever. On principle. They totally piss me off. If your e-mail is important, I will answer it. If I have more pressing things to do then I will do them and then I will answer your e-mail. I will not EVER send a "return receipt".

They piss me off because of the presumption of the person that the second you open your e-mail you're going to immediately send a response to say that you've received their e-mail, and the fact that they've attached a pop-up message to their e-mail demanding you respond immediately with a confirmation. I'll send a response when I'm good and ready, and maybe not at all if it's not important enough.

And if you've attached a read receipt to your e-mail, I will be sure to take twice the time I had originally intended to take before writing anything in response to your e-mail, and if you don't like it, then just be grateful I didn't trash it. Grr! Read receipts!


From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
martin dufresne
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posted 21 March 2008 04:08 PM      Profile for martin dufresne   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
That made my day! Jesus died for our sins, Michelle...
From: "Words Matter" (Mackinnon) | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged
triciamarie
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posted 21 March 2008 05:34 PM      Profile for triciamarie     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I used to keep everything, and file it all -- it took me, like, an hour every other week to keep on top of it, by the time I reread stuff, got distracted etc. Then they changed servers at my work and I lost about seven years of mail. Freaked me out badly at the time but do you know, I have never once run into any serious difficulty as a result. Life lesson! Now I don't delete, don't file, just read it once if at all, then rely on search. Mind you I'm not getting hundreds of emails a day though (shudder to think).
From: gwelf | Registered: Jul 2006  |  IP: Logged
Michelle
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posted 21 March 2008 05:50 PM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Martin, I'm just waiting now for 14 smartass babblers to send me e-mails with receipt requests attached...
From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
rural - Francesca
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posted 21 March 2008 06:07 PM      Profile for rural - Francesca   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
14, that's a pretty low number, but if 14 babblers each send 14 emails that would generate ...

I just set my email to automatically send a receipt.


From: the backyard | Registered: Dec 2007  |  IP: Logged

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