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Are you getting your 36 emails a day?

I don’t know yet: it’s still early, but I count a dozen overnight, newsletters like the one from HR Magazine that pointed me to this research, Google Alerts, network notifications, emails from the boss rescheduling today’s meeting (I have the flu). But I have 4 work email accounts (yes, 4) and each of these will have a similar amount of mail waiting for me, so it’s safe to say an hour into my day and I will have exceeded the daily average.

I suppose it depends on your job. Mine is searching for, sifting, interpreting and wherever possible drawing on new insights into talent and human capital management. Which means I need to ‘feed’ off what’s going on globally, in business, in academia, in articles and research and blogs. And I have got this down to an art, a hour every morning scanning for the new and the on subject is enough to bookmark forward or delete those that work and those that don’t. What drip feeds in from then on can be dealt with as they come. 

For most though the drip drip is from colleagues. Emails that are either direct, cc, or bcc. Emails asking questions, looking for approval or direction, setting up clarifying or postponing meetings, emails about work and customers, about the weekend just gone and the one around the corner, emails whose original subject now has no bearing whatsoever on what’s contained within, emails about emails.

Of course, everyone has their own rules and their own way of dealing with and composing email. Some keep everything (I delete 99%). Some dash off short and sweet one liners (I labour to exceed Pynchon’s monumental Against the Day). Some like the world to know they have caught a cold, (I’ll say only if I have to). 

Of course, what’s really important here is how you read and how you interpret and act on what you read (according to the HR Mag research, a third of emails go unread.) This may sound common sense, but it’s not. For starters, most people don’t read everything. They scan. They look for ways to know what’s said without going line by line. Which makes the subject so vital (I often use the subject to actually start the email, to say half of what I need to to get the reader’s attention and ensure they read the rest.) Subject – Meeting – is not as enticing as 2pm Let’s Kick some Competitor Butt….Same rule applies for the body copy. Expecting busyness and catering for scannability helps, but so too is understanding that as one of 36 a day, your email has to sell itself to get read and get that person (s) engaged and acting. 

Which brings me (finally!) to my point about email. Email is another form of publication. So if you imagine your email as one of 36 little magazines arriving on the desk of your counterparts, all ostensibly packaged the same way, you are then faced with the very real task of making yours the one they open first, yours the one whose headline grabs their attention and content draws them in and has them hooked. Email is entertainment: if your publication bores the crap out of me before I even open it, then no offence but your email is starting to rhyme with pram. 

I don’t have time to make my emails fun! I want people working, not getting kicks out of witty or humorous emails to one another! Ask yourself this question: when was the last time you were copied into the office Cinema Club invite? What Cinema Club? The one where the team bond over a few hours of mindless entertainment. The world is full of stuff to read and watch and think about: the stuff that entertains the most, engages the most. Glam not spam.

Original on HubCap 

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