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In this series on productivity, author Jess Stratton takes you through the latest tools that will help you run your business and life more efficiently. Each installment covers a particular feature or technique in a different online tool, such as Google Apps, Skype, YouTube, Mint.com, Etsy, and more. Learn about topics ranging from recording and publishing video chats to managing your finances online.
I'm Jess Stratton and welcome to Monday Productivity Pointers. This week is all about effective email communication. I'm not going to be addressing newsletter type formats that you can send to potential clients. I'm talking specifically about becoming a general, better and more effective emailer in your day to day job and life. You probably send out lots of emails a day to every aspect in your life. Your daughter's ballet instructor or your son's school teacher, your boss, your employees and partners.
While the tone of the email changes, they all have one thing in common. It does you absolutely no good, unless they read it. So first, let's talk about some signs of poor communication so that you can start to identify any potential skills that you need to work on. The first thing is, missed information even though you contained it in the email. Maybe the information was buried in there somewhere or it was unclear. Speaking of unclear, are people always asking for clarification about things that you send in emails? And finally, not understanding why they were included in the email.
If somebody was cc'd in the email, then what was the reason, and was that reason clearly spelled out to them? To turn this around into becoming a great email sender. It's about changing your mindset to that of a leadership rule. If somebody misses information in an email, and you know you typed that information out. Try not to see it as the other person not reading it correctly. Instead, try to see it as a great opportunity to learn how to make yourself more clear in future emails. Let's talk a little bit about that now.
In order to write an email that gets read, the very first thing that you need to do is identify the purpose. Why are you sending the email? The easiest way to do that is to think of a one sentence reason you're sending the email. If you can't think of that one reason, then you probably don't need to be sending the email. And there's lots of things that make up a reason. For example, just because I wanted to say hi, that's absolutely a reason. If you always have a reason and a good one to be sending out emails, you can train people that the emails that you send are important, and you're sending them for a reason.
You just have to be consistent about it Keep your emails brief. Every sentence you type should have a reason to be there. If you can't think of that reason, it's probably best to just eliminate the sentence. This definitely prevents you from lumping too much in to one email. And including too much extraneous information that will take away from the key reason that you're sending the email at all. A great email starts with a great subject line. Your subject line should be like a newspaper headline or a heading. In fact remember previously when you came up with that one sentence description of why you were sending out an email.
That's perfect. Take that sentence and use it as the subject. Your work is done. Let's look at a quick example. Here's our subject line. Here's our email. Very simple, however that subject line is not so good. It tells me nothing about the email. Now obviously our email is very brief, and that's fine. Don't be afraid to be redundant. Here's the same email with a much better subject line. So right away, somebody knows exactly what we're asking. Now this is a very simplified example obviously, but it's just an example of how important that subject line really is and how it's okay to make your subject exactly like what the body of your email is.
Now let's talk about the structure of the email. The structure should make it easy to read. Reading this email that we're going to send out should be effortless for the other person. In order to do that, you can leave lots of white space. It's okay to have paragraphs and an easy way to decide when you're going to have a paragraph is to read your email out loud, and make a new paragraph where you take a natural breath to start something new. It's absolutely okay to use bullet points in an email and it does make things very easy to read.
Finally, you can bold face very important items and especially action items. But do so very sparingly, otherwise they'll lose their effect completely. Now, on that note about action items, we're going to talk about how to handle action items in an email in next week's Monday productivity pointer. But for now I'll tell you this, always close your email with action items if there are any. This way it's right at the very end and if you do bold face it, people will be sure not to miss it.
So hopefully with these tips you can make sure that all your emails will be read.
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