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6 tips to keep your inbox under control

May 27, 2016

Your inbox is like an envelope that was made for giants.  But this envelope doesn’t contain a letter or even a fun postcard.  The only thing inside this envelope is a bunch of glitter.  Pink glitter.  Blue glitter.  Starry glitter.  The kind of glitter you find years later.  After you’ve vacuumed.  Scrubbed.  Bleached.  And moved houses.

It’s horrible.  And that’s your inbox.  Aren’t you proud?

So when you get to work on a Monday morning and you open that inbox… Glitter. Goes. Everywhere.  Like we said, it’s horrible.  But what’s a productive worker such as yourself supposed to do?  You need that inbox, you need all those emails, and you need modern communication.  Basically, you’re stuck in-between a rock and a piece of glitter.

Or are you?

You see, the simplest way to avoid a glitter bomb is to clean up your inbox.  But this doesn’t just mean you delete a few emails and create a couple folders.  No.  This requires you to change how you email and to learn the necessary do’s and don’ts of email etiquette (bet you didn’t see that one coming).

It’s true, though.  When it comes to emailing, if you have the etiquette down, you can avoid so much back-and-forth and eliminate a great deal of hassle.  Sounds weird… but just hear me out.  And plus, if it can get rid of even one piece of glitter, it’s well worth it.

Ask for a response.

A lot of people won’t respond to a lot of emails for a lot of different reasons – they don’t want to, they don’t know they need to, they don’t think they need to, they don’t care… So if you want a response (no matter how obvious it is that you require one), ask for it.  It can be something simple like, “Please respond by the end of the day with your thoughts.”  Something like this will save you from unnecessary stress, an early death, and absolute disdain for the human workforce.

Only CC if it’s a matter of life or death.

Not only can a few careless CCs leave you in a depressing state of regret and in the middle of a massive flooding of email after email after email, but it’ll lead many people to dislike you.  If you’re going to CC someone, make sure it’s absolutely necessary.  Do they really need this information or are you just sending it to them so they have it for that one day in the future when they might need it?

Give deadlines.

If you’re going to require a response from someone, then attach a deadline to it no matter what.  It simply makes no sense not to.  If you don’t, it’s like saying, “A response would be nice.  But don’t rush.  Really, it can be whenever.  Now, tomorrow, or five years from now.  Just whenever you get to it…”

Create an accurate subject line.

Subject lines can make your life so much easier because it eliminates the game of Hide and Seek from your inbox.  The more accurate and to the point your subject lines are, the more accurate and to the point your work life will be.  And, keep in mind… it won’t hurt anyone’s feeling if you change their subject line.  For example, you’re in the middle of a lengthy email thread with a coworker discussing an ongoing project.  Your coworker initiated the conversation and started it off with a subject line of “Hey…”  Obviously, that doesn’t tell you much.  Change the subject line to refer to the topic at hand and continue on with the conversation.  Later on you’ll be happy you did it.

Confirm you’ve attached everything.

It’s the worst feeling in the world when you spend 20 minutes crafting the perfect email and then forget to attach the documents.  Always double check an email after you’ve written it to confirm that everything is as it should be, and if you say something is attached, please make sure it’s attached.

Write complete sentences.

Sometimes you may feel as if complete sentences aren’t necessary.  But, unfortunately, complete sentences are always necessary.  You think what you said makes complete sense – even without capital letter, commas, and periods – but the person on the other side of that email has no idea what you’re talking about.