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Email Charter

We can help reverse the problems caused by email overload. Be part of the solution.

1. Respect recipients’ time

Make your email easy to read: use these plain English tips to save others time AND make your communication more effective.

2. Short is not rude

It’s ok to be brief. Don’t take brevity personally and know that others won’t. Wordy responses take longer to read. People will scan it and are less likely to read it all; key details can be easily missed.

3. Celebrate clarity

Subject line: write a short subject line that clearly gives the topic.
Opening line: make it the basic reason for writing.

4. Slash CCs

Only CC someone who really needs this message. Don’t thoughtlessly ‘Reply all’: choose individual recipients.

5. Tighten the thread

If you need to include the email trail showing the context, cut what’s not relevant. If it’s long, summarise or make a phone call instead.

6. Reduce attachments

Don’t use images like logos in your signature – they’ll be attached and I’ll try to open it in case it’s something relevant.

7. Should we expect an instant response?

Don’t feel you need to give an instant response, and don’t expect to get one. Skype or the telephone are your tools if something is urgent.

8. Disconnect sometimes

Can you calendar half-days for email-free working? And you should be having email-free evenings, weekends, holidays. Have an ‘auto-response’ that makes it clear you’re not checking.

9. Reference this charter

Spread the word and help change email culture. Reference this charter in your email footer.

This charter was adapted from emailcharter.org which as of 18 Jan 2019 seems to have died. ūüôĀ This text was copied from the University of Kent’s website who have kept the email charter alive.

There is more information about the email charter at theTEDBlog

Every wondered how to get someone to reply to your email?

Me this week: why is this guy chasing me for a reply today when he only emailed me on Thursday?

Also me this week: how come that person I emailed on Wednesday last week STILL hasn’t replied?

Meme saying "yeah if you could reply to my email that would be great"

We’ve all spent time hitting the refresh button on an inbox waiting for a reply to an email we’ve sent and wondering what’s holding things up. The truth is, people send urgent emails before others and if they think a reply to your email is not urgent and is going to take them ages to write, you might be waiting a really long time!

Please Reply to my email - Puppy Eyes Puss in Boots | Meme Generator

Our frustration waiting for others to reply to our emails led us to investigate which factors influence how quickly people respond to emails and whether there’s anything we can do as a sender to get them to choose to reply to us before answering someone else’s message!The results of our study of 45 people responding to 16,200 e-mails sent over a 3 week period show that when e-mail replies are not urgent, people wait to a later time to send replies rather than responding immediately. However, when they do respond they are more likely to tackle the messages that are easier to respond to (eg needing a short reply) and those that carry the greatest importance (eg when there’s something in it for the sender). In contrast, when presented with e-mails that need an urgent reply, people prioritize these and disregard factors such as length of reply.

25+ Best Reply All Email Memes | Reply All Email Meme Memes, the Memes, and  Memes

Our results are important for all of us who use e-mail and want timely responses. Composing e-mails that clearly signal that an urgent response is needed is the best way to ensure that the receiver will deal with it promptly. If it’s not urgent, making clear that you just need a short response will mean your email gets replied to before others.

Anna L. Cox, Jon Bird, Duncan P. Brumby, Marta E. Cecchinato & Sandy J. J. Gould (2021) Prioritizing unread e-mails: people send urgent responses before important or short ones, Human‚ÄďComputer Interaction, 36:5-6, 511-534, DOI: 10.1080/07370024.2020.1835481

Sabbatical week 5: going dark

Switching off, going dark, saying no.  These are all phrases that relate to good advice about how to get things done, or more to the point, how to avoid being distracted and concentrate on the things you want or need to work on.  This week I’m trying to carve out time by switching off email and avoiding other forms of digital communications so I can concentrate on the huge pile of tasks I have to get through.  This thing is that I’m finding it really difficult.  I mean *really* difficult. 

  I started off by deciding that I was going to take my own advice and try a once-a-day email strategy (Bradley, Brumby, Cox and Bird (2013) How to Manage Your Inbox: Is a Once a Day Strategy Best?).  I even scheduled it in my day.  Inspired by a blog post by Think Productive’s Graham Alcott (http://www.thinkproductive.co.uk/the-lemon-routine-rhythm/) I decided to dedicate the morning to important tasks , check email at lunchtime, and then use the afternoons for more communal activities such as meetings. 

  Just 24hours in and it all went wrong when I had to check my email first thing as was expecting to receive a file from a colleague which I needed to work on.  As the 47 emails piled into my inbox I found it impossible to ignore them. 

¬† I’d successfully ignored them the previous night when doing the same thing.¬† That time I’d used the snooze function in my GTD outlook add-in that enables you to snooze a message until the following day.¬† But this time the snooze button didn’t seem appropriate.¬† I didn’t want every email from yesterday to disappear until tomorrow.¬† So it sat there in my inbox, looking at me, and it was all of 3 minutes before I started going through it (I like to keep my inbox at zero).¬† 90 minutes later I had answered emails, added things to my to-do list, and deleted a whole bunch.¬† What I hadn’t done was work on the document I had been waiting for!!