• Steve Huffman

Creating Margin: Email

I was asked recently how I created daily margin, or space within my day to fit so many things I’m working on. There are a few things that I’ve learned along my executive management career that help create margin to stay connected with individuals and allowing myself to tackle new challenges that come along.

While you may not think email is an enemy of margin, for some it is your #1 enemy.

Email can be a time killing and mask as productivity when, really, it frequently creates more inefficiency than it helps. When I was in executive management in the marketplace I found myself receiving hundreds of emails a day and finding my way through that mess helped me to craft a strategy with email that has helped with creating daily margin. Your productivity is inversely related to the number of emails you receive and send…. (in my opinion)

Here are my tips on managing email to increase margin :

  1. Think of email like wild mating rabbits – Email multiplies itself. For every email you send you get more than one in return. If it is quicker than 5 minutes to walk over to the person and ask them face to face DO THAT. I received an email today from someone in another state who was introducing me to a new team and process that I would be helping with. Instead of replying I called him back and we talked for 25 minutes. I could have replied to his email, which would have generated another reply, etc. etc… that 25 minutes would have absolutely been spent on email across DAYS replying back and forth. Was it urgent enough for a call – NO WAY – but it was so much better than killing 5 or 10 minutes here or there over multiple days. When we finished the call he said “Wow it was great just to get through this right away with a call.”

  2. Keep your replies small – When I get an email that demands a reply I normally respond in less than one paragraph. If you go more than a paragraph you usually should have talked face to face or called. Too much text creates the opportunity for emotional context to be missed and relational mess to be created. Have you ever read an email only to assume that the emotion behind it was one way, but come to find out they really didn’t intend it to come across that way? Context cannot be expressed in a 12 point font.

  3. Email should be INFORMATION SHARING, not a todo list – Email is best utilized when you are sharing information for review, passing along files for others, preparing for future meetings, etc. Using email as a running todo list can be a very bad idea because it just breeds more email (see #1 above). If you need a todo list buy one – don’t use email for that.

  4. Blind copy everyone or no one – If you are sending out an email to a large group of people use the blind copy feature so someone doesn’t REPLY ALL to everyone. You should never use blind copy to copy someone on communication in a secret way – that is just rude.

  5. Use Reply All with extreme prejudice – There’s nothing more frustrating that getting multiple reply all’s from people and the reply’s have no information that is helpful to you. Ask yourself – does everyone need to know what I’m about to send, or just a few people?

  6. Never use a group email to inquire a time to meet – Use busy search, use an online meeting time finder like www.doodle.com, or make a few phone calls. Getting 4 replies to an email with 4 different times everyone could meet is terrible.

  7. Never send an angry email….EVER – If you want emotion to come across, then meet them face to face or call them. Emotional emails are unproductive and AMPLIFY frustration. Additionally do you want your emotion to be digitally recorded forever? (probably not)