Although social media and other online collaboration may have diverted some traffic away from email, the overall volume has grown so much that few adults are seeing much difference in inbox size.

email productivityThe time we spend reading and writing is an enormous productivity drain. In her book Managing Your Email, Christina Cavanagh estimates that most business people spend almost four hours a day reading, responding to and otherwise managing their email.

According to this professor in the MBA program at the University of Western Ontario, that adds up to an average annual email overload cost of nearly $22,000 per employee. Holy smokes.

To reduce the productivity drain, Christina made several recommendations many people continue to ignore.

Sigh. Even a fraction of $22,000 per employee could do a lot of wonderful things. So let’s try again. The next time someone wastes your time with a sloppy email, send them here.

12 tips

1. Don’t hit “reply all,” unless all those people really do need to receive your email.

2. Don’t use email as your default channel. Consider whether the circumstances or the recipient’s personal preferences should lead you to choose a personal visit, phone call, tweet, text message or other medium.

3. Keep your messages short and to the point. Read more advice in my previous post.

4. Summarize clearly in your subject line and first sentence.

To Christina’s sage advice, let me add these tips:

5. Tell the short story before you bomboard the recipient with a string of emails that they would have to read in reverse order to make any sense of.

6. Don’t chit chat in the intro. Unless it’s a social email, save your personal greetings for the conclusion.

7. Avoid old-fashioned dictaphone jargon, such as “as per your request.”

8. To flow with the F-shaped pattern of online reading, use short paragraphs broken up by bolded subheads, numbered lists or other visual reading aids.

9. To help people scan, bold action items, names and other important points.

10. Summarize and link, where possible, to more information, to give readers the choice of detail level.

11. With bare bones emails such as meeting invitations, consider adding a compelling and concise note about what’s in it for the recipients.

12. Remember you are writing for people, not robots. Show them courtesy, respect and sensitivity. Be friendly. After all, email is the mother of social media.

I could go on, but I need to check my email. So over to you. What are your recommendations for plugging the email productivity drain?

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