EMAIL: Four “Must Do” Tips for Survival

Is email the bane of your existence or a beneficial boon to productivity?

You may agree with my coaching client when she said, “Email is the bane of my existence.”  I had not heard that term for a long time but thought it was appropriate to express how we feel toward email. I know individuals who get up to 300 or more emails every day which can consume the majority of your day, leaving important tasks undone.

Ivy Wigmore in a blog post for TechTarget says that bane in old English literally meant “slayer” or in our present vernacular, “killer” and 300 emails a day can be a killer to sort through.

Here are tips from my most recent research for handling your “killer” email load:

  1. When you start work and the emails start dumping into your Inbox, scan through them for the most legitimate requests. Mark these requests as unread or flag them so you can easily identify and return to them. Now count how many are truly legitimate requests. Chances are you only have a few emails that are vital and urgent and require your immediate attention. This reduces your stress level.
  2. The next step is to identify those emails you can answer in 2-3 minutes. Tackle them and get them out of the way. Ideally these emails are quick and short to answer: “Yes” “No” or “I recommend _____” “Come and see me.”Cut email distress: scan and identify those that can be answered in 2-3 minutes. Just Do It!
  3. Now cycle back to the emails marked as unread or that are flagged. Estimate how much time it will take you to process the work request in each. If the task contained in the email is vital but not due today and you need in-depth analysis to make an intelligent reply, consider making it task. If the email is urgent, make it an appointment with yourself on your calendar at a specific time in the day. A reminder pops up and you can attack the task. Cut email distress: pull urgent emails into your calendar so they are in the work flow of your day.
  4. Use abbreviations that can save you time as you work to reduce email overload. These popular abbreviations will save you time as you return emails:
  • NRN – No Reply Needed. What a relief for the receiver of the email.
  • FYI – For Your Information. To me this reduces the stress on the receiver because they can process the content of the email at their leisure.
  • EOM – End of Message. This is another way to tell the receiver or receivers that they don’t need to reply. Some use this after their subject line to indicate the receiver does not have to open the email. This is a BIG time saver.
  • LDL – Let’s Chat Live. This is a great option when emails have been flying back and forth and no one seems to have an appropriate solution to the problem. If you are a virtual team, not co-located, I recommend a video session so you can look people in the eye, read their body language and cycle through options. If you are in the same building, you can use the acronym IRL meaning In Real Life or F2F meaning Face to Face. Cut email distress: must use acronyms.

Many abbreviations and acronyms develop out of self-defense and their use depends on your company culture. Everyone has to know what they mean to make them useful.

There are others that can be used depending on your relationship with the receiver. Use caution with NBIF (No Basis In Fact – how many times could you have used this in the past?), PMJI (Pardon My Jumping In – does this preface you telling them what to do?), RTM (Read The Manual – implies Read the Manual, Stupid) or MYOB (Mind Your Own Business).

Comprehensive list of vintage acronyms can be found at:

Try these tips, experiment with the acronyms and let me know if they change your view of email from the bane of your existence to a beneficial boon of productivity. Leave your comments and tips below.

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Karla Brandau is available for keynotes and workshops on reducing email overload, goal setting and time management. Call 770-923-0883 to check here availability for your next training date.

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