April 14, 2020
Protecting our well-being means managing distractions and having norms for email
It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the number of emails we get these days. Keeping one eye on email at all times can pull us away from paying attention, making good decisions and sticking to our priorities. This constant fragmentation of our time and concentration has become the new normal, making us feel busy but not productive. This may result in increased stress and decreased productivity.
What are some strategies to ensure our use of email is effective and conducive to well-being?
Consider these questions when emailing:
1. Is this email really necessary?
How important is it for the other person to get our email and how important is it for us to get the results we want by sending it? Don’t “reply to all” unless there is a good reason to do so.
2. Is email the right choice to communicate what I need to?
Could we schedule a virtual meeting or call and speak to the person(s)?
3. How often should I check my email?
Setting aside a block of time every day to check and respond to your emails allows you to focus on other goals and responsibilities throughout the day.
4. Does this email have to be sent now, or should I wait?
Do not email outside of working hours unless absolutely necessary or mutually agreed upon previously. It is important to clarify expectations beforehand, as what we expect can differ greatly from what others believe we expect of them.
5. Is the email clear, concise and brief?
Keep sentences short and to the point.
6. Is the email polite, sensitive and accepting of others?
Messages we send are a reflection of our own professionalism, values, and attention to detail.
Pay attention to understanding and navigating individual and cultural differences.
7. What is the tone of the email?
Our choice of words, sentence length, punctuation, and capitalization can easily be misinterpreted without visual and auditory cues. Use exclamation points sparingly. Practice empathy and acceptance of others.
8. Did I proofread the email?
Before hitting 'send', take a moment to review your email. Do not send an email in haste. Do not send anything when upset or annoyed.
If you have 3 minutes to spare today, we recommend you spend them on this Harvard Business Review video on 'How to Collaborate Effectively If Your Team Is Remote':
The Well-being Task Force