Email Pet Peeves that You Just Haven't Realized

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Are you one of those who have hundreds or even thousands of unread emails in their inbox? Or one to always "miss" emails because you saw them, opened them, and then decided to ignore or not read?

Believe me, it's not entirely your fault.

See, I used to be like you. And I always blamed myself for not being very organized.

THEIR Fault

Emails used to be a nice-to-have tool that made lives easier, providing a faster and more secure way of communicating compared to "snail mail." Through the years, it has evolved to become a required tool for organizations, with some having a culture where the workforce doesn’t act unless instructions or approvals are emailed.

Realizing that I was becoming a bottleneck in my own organization and slowing down others, I decided to do something about it.  And when I did, I realized that I had to stop blaming myself and start blaming others because, in fact, it was THEIR fault - the email senders, to be specific.

When I was painstakingly going through all my unread emails, some as old as 4 months, until I’ve responded to, read, or “read-but-not-really” all of them, I realized that most of my unread emails were emails that I, at one point, tried reading and addressing. However, because of one of the below, or a combination of two or more, I decided to “unread” them to save for another day when I had more time or energy to do so.

1. Loooong emails

Anything that has more than 2 paragraphs is long. If each of the paragraphs have more than 3 sentences in them, then the email is REALLY long.

I counter the urge to not address these by not reading them, and then approaching or calling the person who sent the email, so we can discuss what he sent.

By training myself to call or approach the email sender as my reaction to long emails, I’ve trained the senders to adapt to me and call me for anything that will require lengthy explanations.

However, calling or having face-to-face conversations will not always be possible. Which brings me to number 2.

2. Emails with no questions, no next steps

When I get long emails, and calling or approaching the sender isn’t possible, I am forced to read. And when I do so, I hope as I read that there will be questions or directions in the email that will guide my next steps.

But that’s not always the case and there’s nothing more irritating than losing 2 to 3 minutes reading something that will require another read because the point of the email is not clear.

My default reaction to these before was to “unread” the email to go back to it when I had more energy, which basically meant never. But not anymore. Now, I reply to these and politely, but bluntly, call out the fact that I wasn’t sure what the point of the email was, or if there was supposed to be a question somewhere in there. By doing this, I slowly trained the senders to be conscious of providing clear next steps, expectations, or requests in their emails.

3. Long email threads, too many back-and-forth

I’m sure you’ve been copied in one of these. Email conversations that last for hours, days, weeks. Email threads that have branched out to other email threads with the same subject and same recipients, because one or more of the recipients decided to reply on top of an older email instead of the most recent.

Oh, aren’t they irritating?! When this happens, a natural reaction is to tune out and ignore the emails altogether.

The solution to this is really simple. Someone just needs to take the effort to say “Team, I think it will be better if we just set up a meeting.”

Realizing that I was becoming a bottleneck in my own organization and slowing down others, I decided to do something about it. And when I did, I realized that I had to stop blaming myself and start blaming others because, in fact, it was THEIR fault - the email senders, to be specific.

In any organization, there will be people who have fallen in-love with their emails that they forget they can pick-up the phone, or just walk to the next room to discuss in person. You can either live with them and suffer the consequences, or do something about it. The productivity of your organization and your sanity will depend on how you will react.