To email or not to email

Ray Tomlinson pioneered the email system while working for ARPANET in 1971. He has also been accredited for using the @ symbol that everyone is now accustomed to when sending an email. Emails had revolutionized communication in its early days and in many ways have not developed much since the 70’s and is still one of the common ways of communicating between professionals. Even with the development of Web 2.0 where everything is at your fingertips and emails seem like the snail mail of the 21st century, they are still used by more than 600 million users.

Whether you love or hate emails, there is one thing that no one really looks forward to and that is maintaining their inbox. Software developers have produced apps and software that claim to organise your emails and make it easier for you to control your inbox. Fundamentally you cannot escape from the dreaded email chore. It has to be done and no app or software in the world is going to do that for you. Added to this is the frustration of using email as a tool. Many users simply do not know how to use an email system affectively or simply take the lazy route which I do sometimes and end up paying the price later on. Some companies have gone as far as banning emails in their work environment. Although I understand the sentiment, I am not sure if banning something that works pretty well is the answer. Sometimes changing our habits can do wonders. Below are some of my tips to stay on top and still use emails productively.

  • Check your email regularly. Ignoring a message is discourteous and confusing to the sender.
  • It is good practice to reply to all messages after you have read them, even if it is only an acknowledgement of its receipt.
  • Once you have read the message file it or delete it.
  • Deleting messages that will not be needed again conserves hard disk space.
  • It is important to keep messages short and to the point.
  • Be diplomatic when you are emailing. Criticism is always harsher when written.
  • Think if you need to reply to all.
  • Add a subject title that is appropriate and always add a subject title.
  • Do not always replay immediately especially on sensitive matters.
  • Check the size of the attachment before sending, as large files can clog up the email server.
  • Be careful what you write. Remember emails can be easily forwarded.
  • It may sound obvious but check for spelling and grammatical errors.
  • Check for the tone of your email, use emoticons where appropriate. They can do wonders.

In short:

Read it

Reply to it

Keep it short

File it

Delete it

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