Tips for efficient email usage

emailMost productivity bloggers preach about email usage. I have done that too few times.

I have a slogan “be rude to your email, but not to the people

..and in my work and commitment to non-profit I have used it ruthlessly.

Being rude to your email leads to a very different kind of email usage that can and sometimes will offend someone. It works better when your email receivers learn how you behave.

My emails are often like SMS or twitter messages. I use very short sentences and in general I don’t answer if emails to me do not include direct questions. Even then I try to answer with short answers to reduce the time used and to make my statements clear.

My style seems to work well, since I have received comments like, “I always read your emails, because you send them so rarely and they are always important.” When you send them, we know they are worth reading.

I have also heard complaints that I am rude since I only reply with short words and sentences.

But I will take the risk to be interpreted as rude.

Email is not for conversations or discussions. It is just modernized version of snail mail letters. It is one way communication that takes time.

I use email to inform group of people if I can accept the risk that many of the receivers wont read it or if my informing includes instructions that the group needs to follow and possibly come back later to verify how it should be done.

If there is anything that cannot be missed, then I don’t use email or after sending the email I use other communication channels to verify that the message gets delivered.


When I have something important to deliver, I can ask receivers to reply to me if they have read and understood. You can add more force to your request by saying that you will call to every person who does not reply. Most people will reply in that case.

Here are few e-mail advises based on my experience:

1. Don’t expect that the matter is at all handled or closed when you press the send button. It is not!

When you press send button, you get false feeling that the matters you are emailing are taken care of.

Usually they are not.

Send button fools you badly and often you find out that your email is not read or understood.

2. Don’t use email as you main communication if you really need to get your message through.

Email can fail with hundreds of different ways.

3. Don’t use “recipient has read the message” notification

Some email clients allow to ask receipt when the email has been read by the receiver. That is one of the dummies features ever, because the receiver has all the options in his hands to configure the mail client anyway he likes and even press don’t send receipt.

Opening email is far from reading and understanding.

4. Never put two topics or several questions to one email.

People tend to read only the first one and often they answer only to the first question.

5. Don’t make jokes in email.

They are often misunderstand and they also add up to the waste of time email creates itself.

6. Don’t react to every email

Don’t react to every email, specially don’t react by replying. If you get angry, try to find out more. Get up, crab the phone or do whatever to contact the sender before you reply.

Why I rarely react to emails?

  1. Email is not for conversation
  2. The impression you get from email is often too strong
  3. Email is not proper place to explain
  4. When you answer you don’t know if it is too late already and you might end up spending time to something that is already solved.


There are lots of other good advises for email. What are your tips and best practises?


Photo credir Flickr Slgckgc

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