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Rules of email engagement

Colin Campbell
by Colin Campbell on 30/09/19 18:00

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Email communication can be useful, but more often than not it is brutal.

Looking for a means of reducing your email engagement is fundamental to avoid being drowned on a day to day basis by a torrent of messages which, honestly, often have no relevance to you.

Some suggestions that you might want to discuss with people who are emailing you, either within your work or even personally to make things a little bit better (for everyone).

  1. The reply all button, has now become obsolete. There is almost no situation where using the reply all button is appropriate and if you find that you’re hitting it regularly within a group, you’re in the wrong format and you should be on WhatsApp! Reply all to 10 people asks 9 people to read the email, who generally were not required to read it. Wasting their time and their emotional energy while you abdicate your responsibility to make sure you have “told everyone”.
  2. CC. See above for reply all. Copy people in to emails for their information if you feel that is necessary or you have been asked to do so, but that is generally an abdication of responsibility. I do not need to see that you have sent an email direct to somebody else and if I do need to see that, then address it to me too. The CC button is a way of imagining that you have covered yourself by telling someone else the story when in fact they probably haven’t read it. If they have read it, it is likely that they have waisted their time.
  3. Writing in FULL CAPS, is SHOUTING. It is unlikely that you would find that appropriate to shout in the conversation that you are having over email than at face to face, so it is not a great idea to shout using caps. I appreciate that you may want to shout “I HAVE NOT GOT CANCER” but see number 1 and perhaps use a more appropriate media for that purpose.
  4. Reduction strategies. Use any strategies you can to reduce your interaction with email where at all possible. We use project management software at the practice, Slack groups, face to face meetings and so on, the other thing to do is to introduce sender filters. This is some sort of out of office reply that says you’re not answering emails right now and it reduces the amount of tat that people send.

A final story, I once had a friend who was extremely high up in dental commissioning (no it is not Jason Wong) he went through the ranks so then NHS commissioning became very high up in medical and dental and optical commissioning and when he went on holiday for a fortnight, would routinely return to over 1000 emails in his inbox. His sender filter before he went on holiday said, “I am now on holiday and I will not reply to any email that you send, if that email is necessary please resend it after this date, all emails will be deleted on my return.” On return from his holiday he would open his inbox, select all and delete, starting with an empty inbox on day one back.

He continued through the organisation to one of the highest levels before he happily retired and lived happily ever after.

You are not emails. You are much more than emails.

Blog Post Number - 2142

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Colin Campbell
Written by Colin Campbell
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