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7 Women on How They Tackle Email

March 16, 2018 | Filed in: Your Brain

Earlier this month, we delved into the existential dread and despair that can arise when we let email control our lives—and the downsides of waging “email war.” The topic sparked quite a few conversations around the office, and it also made us curious—how do the busy women in our community handle the pressure of constant communication? Below, seven women on their tips for managing email.

“I can easily receive 100 to 150 emails in a day. I try and stay on top of it by addressing them as they come in; however, it can often distract from getting actual work done. If I really need to concentrate, I close Outlook for an hour or so to ensure I can stay focused. What works for me is only having emails in my inbox that I still need to address, preferably 30 to 70 at a time. I also set a lot of reminders using email: I’ll BCC myself, file the email, and have it pop up as a reminder in a few days.”

—Kate, VP of Planning & Operations for a jewelry retailer

“Email is essential to any business, but it’s easy to get too lax about what you send into the ether. As a general rule: If you wouldn’t want it on public record, don’t email it. Then again, if you’re working on something where a paper trail is key, make sure your communication happens via email (with the appropriate parties CC’d). Avoid writing a novella. If you can’t express your idea(s) in a fairly concise email, it might be wiser to schedule a phone call or in-person meeting.”

—Melissa, Writer

“I hate having unread emails, so I move through them ASAP. I read them all and put them in folders, and then my inbox functions as a to-do/reminder list. Only emails that need action from me are in there. I also disabled all phone notifications for my work email, so I only check it if I really want to outside of work hours.”

—Emma, Assistant Director of Special Events at The New School

“To try to minimize unnecessary emails, I ask my team to refrain from emailing me back just to say ‘Thanks!’ and I let them know that I won’t be doing that either. Let’s instead agree that, as a general rule, we’re all appreciative of each other’s efforts, and not waste inbox and brain space on emails with zero new information in them.

My other rule is: If you send an email asking a colleague to look at or comment on something, always give (or propose) a deadline! We’re all doing a million things every day; people need to know how to prioritize. Otherwise, the other person has to write you another email asking when you need it.”

—Darin, Associate Director at a social enterprise incubator

“I sort my inbox so that all of the unread messages I need to address are right at the top. I also try to make it a rule of thumb to not let a message go unanswered for more than three days. I recently read an article about ‘doing that one thing you’ve been putting off,’ and more often than not, my ‘one thing’ is replying to an email I’ve been avoiding. Of course, the longer I put off answering, the harder it becomes to respond, so I try to hold myself to this three-day rule.”

—Marissa, Director of Special Projects at a nonprofit

“I star emails that require a response or that I may be need to reference in the future. I’ve found that leaving things unread becomes overwhelming for me. I also rely very heavily on my search bar—I LOVE search. The most irritating emails, for me, are ones that are verbose for no reason, or with no clear takeaway or ask. Email is a great way to express complex or lengthy ideas and to help get people aligned on certain projects, but ramblings or emails sent just for the sake of sending something are annoying.”

Rachel, Executive Assistant

And our personal favorite: “Dance like no one is watching; email like it may one day be read aloud in a deposition.”

Olivia Nuzzi, Washington Correspondent for New York Magazine

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Shop Power Pieces For Tackling Email

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