How to Avoid Succumbing to Death by Email
There once was a world without email, but that world is gone forever. Email – what a concept, and what a dilemma! The benefit of email to accounting professionals, as well as everyone else, is abundantly clear. Email, however, can be devastating if used unwisely. Some people constantly check their email all day long. Some incessantly send mail merely to receive mail. Some spend time actually pondering the spam they receive.
Who among us does not receive more email than he or she can possibly respond to? By some estimates, the typical career professional today receives 150 to 190 emails per day!
Despite software filters and Internet service provider (ISP) crackdowns, mass delivery from spammers has risen dramatically. Data from Jupiter Communications reveals that there are far more email accounts in the United States than there are people. Spammers know this and know how to spread their junk everywhere.
Resist any temptation to respond to spam! Never respond even to request removal from the spammer’s list. If you do, you only confirm that your email address is active, which will make you a future target. Maddening, isn’t it?
Here are some quick tips for you to consider:
- Send any spam messages you receive to your ISP’s abuse account, along with the source code from the original spam message.
- If possible, avoid posting your primary email address anywhere on the Internet.
- For secondary email addresses, choose one deep in the alphabet. Spammers’ lists run alphabetically. When an ISP successfully cuts off a spammer, addresses at the end of the list get spared.
- Choose a complex email address. [email protected], for instance, will receive more spam than [email protected].
Whenever you receive email with lots of X’s, all capitals, or excessive claims, don’t waste a picosecond reading it. One writer commented, “You can safely bleep anything that has lots of exclamation marks, assorted promises and come-ons, or if it looks like it was written by someone who paints for a living.”
Even without spam, you’re still probably receiving dozens of emails per day. That’s quite a bit of verbiage. To effectively manage your time, keep your job, and have a life, how do you handle email?
When composing messages that you intend to have read, offer a vibrant subject line so that the receiver will read them. If you have trouble deriving one, wait until you have first composed your message. Then peruse what you’ve written, and voila! Two or three words (usually together) will jump out at you, and there’s your subject.
Offline, Optimize Your Time Online
Early in the morning, before downloading new messages, the “administrivia” that you handle often enhances your productivity in both sending and receiving email. This includes arranging your inboxes and composing thoughts before going online.
As with all good writing, it’s prudent to park outbound email messages for a while and revisit them before sending. With virtually all software and service providers, you have the option to store an email message as a “draft message” for later retrieval as desired.
Also, those who check their email every spare moment they have are often not doing such a great job. Avoid that trap by enhancing your offline effectiveness.
Too Fast for Your Own Good?
Have you ever angered or confused anyone because of an email? If you think the answer is “no,” think again.
Unless worded carefully, emails can seem impersonal, cold, even abrasive. It’s not that you intended to ruffle any feathers, but in the haste of instant communication, ruffling happens! As a good rule of thumb, before sending an email, consider the following guidelines as viable reasons to call rather than email.
When the message is:
- Personal or emotional in nature
- Completely novel
- Requires extended clarification
- Seeks approval
- Might have profound impact on the recipient
Old Email Never Dies
Finally, treat any email you ever send as having the potential to revisit you! By now, you know that all email is retrievable – somewhere. If you write an email that can land you in trouble, expect it to come back and haunt you.
How do you relieve your email burden? At the bottom of this article, let us know some best practices or tips you use.
Jeff Davidson, a.k.a. “The Work-life Balance Expert”®, speaks to accounting firms and associations on increasing their work-life balance so they can be more productive and competitive, and still have a life away from work. He is the author of Everyday Project Management, Breathing Space, and Simpler Living. Visit breathingspace.com.