Yesterday I was involved in a fictitious exercise for a client where one of the company’s teams was being put through its paces in a realistic scenario. The idea was to stress-test their system and to see if their existing procedures were robust enough.
During the four-hour exercise, messages were sent using a coded email system. Each time I sent an email I hovered over the “send” button for quite a while. I needed to check that I was sending the information to the right address, with the correct code. Otherwise, if my email had “escaped” the exercise and had inadvertently been sent to the wrong people, I would have created a significant crisis. Indeed, had that happened you would have known about it by now. I would have been on the 10 o’clock news, and my client would never speak to me again, except perhaps when they visited me with their lawyers in Pentonville.
The care I took yesterday is in stark contrast to the attention paid by someone who emailed me earlier in the week. For a start, the email started “Hi Gillian”. Then it went on to tell me all about an event I could attend for female academics. That message came a day after another email confirming that they did want to hire my 40-tonne mobile crane. They meant to send that request to “Graham Jones Cranes” but sent it instead to Graham Jones, Internet Psychologist…!
Easy done, I hear you say. And it is when you don’t hover over the “send button” for long enough to check all the details of what you are about to push out into the world.
However, there are plenty of other reasons why you need to avoid pressing the send button as soon as you have typed the message.
One of these is about managing your workload. If you send an email now, the recipient is bound to reply (usually within the hour) meaning that you will get something to do an hour from the time you press the button. If you don’t want to handle the impact of sending out emails, don’t send them until you can deal with the effects they will cause. Work out when you have the capacity to cope with an influx of messages and send out your emails at an appropriate time in advance of that. You might need to monitor your email system for a week or two first, to see when you get replies and the timing of messages. It may vary between people. So you can create a list of appropriate times to send out messages based on each recipient. This might sound like a bit of effort, but it will repay itself in your ability to manage your time when you get all the replies.
Another reason to delay pressing that “send button” is when you might need more time to think. All too often people think they have thought enough about the message, only to send another email in a few hours time because they forgot something. The answer is to write the email, save it as a draft and come back to it later. Indeed, your subconscious will remind you about the draft email when it pops those extra thoughts into your mind later in the day. If, though, you send the email, then you have to send a subsequent one with the follow-up thoughts, and that creates two email chains on the same subject, leading to time-consuming checking and the potential for mistakes.
You can also delay sending emails when you know that people will not be in the right frame of mind to deal with the information you are sending. Most people are able to act on emails early in the morning or late in the afternoon. But just after lunch they are not always at their top speed..! If you know that the person you are aiming at is a “morning person” then ensure you email them first thing in the day. But if they are an “owl” then send messages late in the afternoon. You will get their best attention, reducing the chances of misinterpretation, when the email arrives in the recipient’s inbox at their peak performance time. In turn, that means you won’t have so many follow-up messages for clarification.
One of the biggest drains on business time these days is handling email. Indeed, it is now estimated that the typical business person is spending over four hours each day dealing with email. That’s half the working day. Much of that time is wasted, coping with clarifications, adding material that was forgotten in the first message or sending out messages again because they were sent to the wrong person initially. Our office productivity is low because we are not thinking enough about the way we send emails.
Yesterday I was forced to think hard about sending email messages. How hard do you think as you hover over the “send button”?
Scheduling emails, so they go out when you want them to go, or delaying them and keeping them in draft form, is a great way to make sure that you manage your email system, rather than letting it control you..! When you schedule emails, you can make sure you do not need to clarify them in future messages, that you will get replies when it is appropriate to you, and that you will get actions taken because they arrive at the recipient when they are on “full steam ahead” mode.
If you use Gmail, then you can use services like Boomerang or Gmelius to delay and schedule sending. If you use webmail of any kind, you can use RightInbox to manage email timings. For people who have Outlook, it has inbuilt scheduling options. And if none of these things takes your fancy, consider HubSpot’s solution for scheduling messages.
The chances are that much of our time spent on email could be saved if only people thought for longer before pressing that “send button”. A scheduling service is an excellent way of ensuring that you get a firmer grip on the email time hog.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+