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Email is not work!

When I work with people on improving their productivity at work, inevitably email comes up. The same is often true for personal email. Everyone hates email, everyone uses it. People act like there is nothing they can do about it. Here are my best thoughts on doing email better. Don’t just try this yourself, share it with everyone you work with and watch your productivity soar.

To: Fill this in last, only include people who really need this information or who can answer your action

Cc: Why are you cc’ing someone? No one needs an inbox full of FYI’s

Bcc: Please don’t use this, it is the opposite of trust and communication. Seriously, don’t use this.

Subject: Identify what this is – ACTION/BACKGROUND FOR MEETING/OPPORTUNITY – and include the deadline here.


  1. Start your email by writing your text, not by addressing it. By the time you are done, you will have a better idea of who really needs to receive your email.

  2. Take time to make your email short and clear. In almost every case, an email should be no longer than one screen’s worth of text.

  3. Hit your Bottom Line Up Front – BLUF. Include your expectation of the next action by recipients.

  4. Always ask yourself – would a phone call or a face-to-face (F2F) meeting work better for this?

  5. If you are the kind of person who sends an email at 11:45 telling people that the 12:00 meeting has been cancelled, no one appreciates it. Pick up the phone. Phone or F2F is best for any short turn around action.

  6. Here is a good trick – give an action to the person who wrote every email you receive. This works especially well if you are the boss. You will find that your email drops off drastically.

  7. When handling email, aim to touch it only once – delete, reply, or archive if you really must.

  8. Don’t use your inbox as your stealth To Do list. Why would you let everyone who emails you create your To Do list? You need to decide what you will do and keep that list yourself.

  9. Don’t read email first thing in the morning if you don’t absolutely have to – instead, start your day based on your plan.

  10. If possible, only read yesterday’s email rather than check it every time a new one pops up. In fact, let everyone know you are doing that.

So what about the title of this post? You might spend work time writing and reading emails, but I am pretty sure that is not how you actually meet your customer needs. You have to actually do something to meet those needs. If you are spending all your time writing and reading emails, what is not getting done? Go do that instead.

Now, go make it happen –


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