Email etiquette… lest we forget

iStock_000008146908MediumWhen email was a new thing, there were a lot of etiquette tips flying around as we all learnt (sometimes the hard way) about communicating sans body language. These days, we’ve all got it worked out, right?

If a recent email ‘conversation’ about a touchy family issue has taught me anything, it’s that some of us still don’t get it. And even if we do, it’s good to be reminded…

Keep it simple

Concise, clear, need-to-know – that’s the key to any communication. How many emails have you received where the vital information is buried in shovel loads of unnecessary stuff? So don’t hit send until you’ve read through and edited your email.

Stay cool

Email ‘yelling’ is a very uncool. You probably wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) do it to the person’s face. So LOSE THE CAPITALS,  inflammatory coloured fonts, and (a new one) long paragraphs in bold italics. 

Rapid response

Responding promptly to emails shows respect. Even a quick ‘I’m onto it’ or ‘got it, thanks’  let’s the sender know you’re following up or you received their email or attachment. The alternative is a ‘blank look’ and nobody likes to be ignored.

To CC or not to CC

Keeping people ‘in the loop’ is great if it’s really necessary. But you risk  desensitising them if you go crazy with the CC option – and they may overlook an important direct email from you later.

Nothing to hide

Consider why you’re blind copying someone into an email. There’s a difference between hiding something, and protecting someone’s privacy (such as sending to email lists). A good rule of thumb: if you can’t openly copy someone in on an email, don’t copy them in at all.

Last in, first out

Always respond to the last email in the conversation first, because the older stuff may have already been sorted. But do skim over the email trail before asking a question that may already be covered.

Talk to me

If we use it well, email is a convenient and fast way of communicating in our busy lives. But don’t give up on that quick call or a face-to-face chat, which will often get things sorted faster than a bunch of emails back and forth. It’s how we used to roll, back in the pre-email days…

Improve your mind power…leave work on time!

computer_and_personYou’ve probably had days where you forget stuff, times when your brain seems to turn to sludge and you can’t remember your own name, let alone anyone else’s. Imagine every day being like that.

We take our mind power for granted, especially when we’re working and apparently exercising it. Crosswords and brain exercises are for oldies, right?

Think again. Trying to impress your boss or co-workers by starting early and finishing late just might backfire on you.

If you’re working more than 55 hours a week, your cognitive function – memory, attention, and reasoning – may be affected.

In January 2009, the American Journal of Epidemiology published the*Whitehall II Long Working Hours and Cognitive Function study. It found that middle-aged people working 55 hours a week didn’t perform as well as those working 40 hours a week.

In fact, when it comes to memory, attention and reasoning, the decline from overworking is on a similar scale to smoking, a known risk factor in dementia.

Even if you haven’t hit middle-age, you’ll be forming work habits that you’ll find hard to break later.

So whatever stage of life you’re at, aim for balance (and I’m not talking bank balance). Your mind-power may depend on it.

*Stephen Pincock talks about this and other intelligence research in his book Get Smart! 100 Lifestyle Choices That Affect Your Brain (published by Hardie Grant Books).

Increase your productivity – at work and in life

Dean Jackson’s 50-minute focus finder is priceless. Have you got 50-minutes to watch his presentation?

With a healthy level of skepticism, I sat down to do Dean’s focus finder exercise (one of several he talks about). It’s really a brain dump, which you do for 50 minutes – listing every single thing that comes into your head.

After about 10 minutes, you move from the reactive zone (phonecalls, meetings, people to see, things to fix, emails to respond to) to the proactive zone (new ideas and approaches, new markets to explore, etc).

To my surprise, it worked. And I’ve already put some changes in place… others are on the list. So I’m a convert. It’s a pretty worthwhile way to spend 50 minutes…