An Email Injunction: Step Away From Your Inbox

You have worked hard to earn your current position, having scratched and clawed your way up to the bottom of the middle. You are important-ish. Just look at your inbox overflowing with…well, unorganized stuff. Today we are exploring our email communication style while we enjoy a chocolate treat that has been aptly named an InBox Cake in honor of the nostalgic box cake with pudding in the mix, of course.

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Your email inbox is out of control. It seems that everyone, regardless of position, is receiving hundreds of emails a day. What is all the excessive communication really about? You are likely being cc’d to oblivion, drowning in mind-numbing minutiae and perhaps participating in a few inefficient habits yourself. This is an exit strategy to escape the dark abyss that is currently your inbox.

First, let us start with the realization that you are not going to lead a coup to change your company’s email culture because you can’t even manage your own inbox effectively, capiche? While the organization you work for may be massively inefficient, let’s start with our own communication habits first and then we will judge others.

Study your sent folder.

Review last week’s correspondence. It’s no doubt spellbinding prose, but please try to stay focused and look for ways to improve. Even small changes can make a meaningful difference.

  1. How many emails do you send a week? If you are sending a sizable number then try cutting the number in half next week and then in half again the following week until you break your addiction. It’s about quality, not quantity.
  2. How are you using email? Categorize into general trends. If you are struggling with this part, then have a colleague assist you. Print out a random sample if you are concerned about confidential material.
  3. Your co-workers don’t appreciate deciphering emojis, creative spelling and/or incomplete thoughts. There is a difference between concise versus unintelligible. Ask for feedback from your peers, if you dare.
  4. How many emails are directly linked to your KPI’s, projects most important to your success and the success of your teams?
  5. Are you doing the work your position requires or are you dabbling in other roles? Please, stay in your lane and mind your own biscuits.
  6. Have you set expectations and empowered your team to execute or do you have to approve every detail in writing? CYA cultures are the pits.
  7. Are your emails about following up regarding deadlines that have been missed or missing information? You might be enabling sloppy work and avoiding much needed coaching.
  8. Does the subject line of your email clearly articulate what you are expecting? Could you find the email again in your inbox if you needed it?
  9. Are you indiscriminately cc’ing your bosses because it’s easy? Consider sending a recap of relevant information on a weekly or bi-monthly basis instead.
  10. Review the number of people that were cc’d. Pretend that there is a Carbon Copy Tax of $5 per person added to each email. How much do you owe for the week? Bernie Sanders can’t help you get out of debt either. 

There truly is an excise tax for ineffective communication; it’s called decreased productivity which is both annoying and expensive.

Try this experiment for 4 hours:

Write your emails as usual but save them as drafts. After the cooling off period, evaluate further before hitting send and eliminate or amend as follows:

1. General reminders about due dates. Resign from your position as Chief Hand Holding Officer and let your team hone their own project management skills. Note, if you fall into this category of associate that requires reminders, then ask yourself if you are in the right job because your boss is likely contemplating that question and you’ll want to be prepared for the forthcoming feedback session.

2. Hold all emails with general status updates. Schedule a weekly call with the person(s) or put the updates in your project management system. Alternatively, wait until the end of the week and send all updates in one document to as few people as possible.

3. Evaluate your requests of others and determine if expectations have been communicated clearly including deadlines. Revise lengthy prose into bulleted points for maximum effectiveness.

4. Delete the FYI stuff. Nobody needs to know every detail. You can safely assume that nobody really cares and the more clutter you send the less likely anyone will want to read anything you send.

5. Are you expecting everyone to treat your emails as urgent? The higher up the food chain, the higher everyone has to jump and the less likely you are to hold yourself accountable for poor communication and time management skills. Please understand the high price to be paid for this behavior, including negatively impacting your team’s productivity and ultimately the loss of respect.

For the tsunami of information flowing toward you:

• Create a rule for the battery of reports your company generates to go straight into a folder so you are not manually moving them. Set a designated time each day/week to review the reports.
• Manage your team. Issue a cease and desist order regarding emailing you with every random question that pops up as well as cc’ing you on everything. You will reciprocate. Make the team aware that you will no longer treat all email as urgent. No more hunkering down behind your computer all day. Try walking around the office to be more accessible to answer questions. The team’s neediness could be about a lack of training.
• Protect your calendar. Put time aside for checking and responding to email once every three hours and step away from the insanity to get your real work done.

For the judgment you have been waiting for:

Skip the email etiquette reminder. We are blind to our own communication shortcomings, so the person you need to get it won’t and it’s just another email in everyone’s inbox. The clichéd brick between the eyes is most impactful in these circumstances. P.S. There’s a brick on the way to your office now…we can all improve.
Call out an offender. Gently ask not to be copied on certain types of correspondence but be prepared for hurt feelings, as the person chronically emailing on weekends believes that she is just working harder than the rest of the team. In my experience, people have to hear feedback from the boss.
Your boss is the biggest email abuser. Productivity is a buzzword that should get your supervisor’s attention. Tell your boss that you need assistance improving the productivity, efficiency and effectiveness of the team’s communication and a meeting of the minds is needed to cut down on the deluge of email disguising itself as work. You mean business and that should scare the crap out of your inefficient boss.
• Take no prisoners. This is your career and you cannot do your best work, contribute to your organization and build your resume if you are drowning in inefficacy. In the end, you may end up completely ignoring emails from poor communicators. It sounds harsh but you don’t have time to waste.

Stay focused on keeping your own inbox high and tight and everything will be all right. There’s no more ish about it, you really are important. 

Box cakes remind me of the 80’s. Even with the gussied up substitutions outlined below, the nostalgia of pudding in the mix flavoring transports me back to childhood. The pre-made frosting from a tub is highly recommended to go with the box mix. Note: purchase double the amount recommended on the tub because nobody likes a chintzy amount of frosting.

Recipe

Buy your favorite box cake

Substitute the following ingredients:

Instead of oil add the same amount of melted butter

Instead of water use whole milk

Add three more whole eggs for a total of five

Mix and bake according to instructions on box. 5″ rounds were used for this cake and cupcakes were made with the additional batter.

Disclaimer: The story and recipe above should not be considered advice as the readers and users of Chocolate Cake Mondays are not clients and therefore CCM is not liable for reader’s reliance on the information herein.

Published by HIRED GUN.