Career Center Blog

March 19, 2013

Spring-clean your email habits

Spring-clean your email habits

(Photo: Microsoft Free Clip Art)

The other day after returning from lunch I listened to several voicemails. One message was from a client letting me know he had sent me an email. Later that afternoon, someone else texted to ask me to read the email she had just sent.


Many people are now getting creative to ensure their messages don't get lost in a sea of emails ... such as by sending follow-up voicemails or texts. I can't say I blame them, given the number of emails most people receive every day.

Business emails account for the majority of global email traffic, with 89 billion sent and received daily during 2012. To make matters worse, this number is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 13 percent over the next four years to 143 billion emails by the end of 2016.

Those statistics are enough to make my head swim. It's also enough to make us realize we probably spend more time sifting through emails each day than we'd like. While it can be a wonderful communication tool, I can't help but think that if we all used email more responsibly and efficiently, maybe people wouldn't resort to other methods to ensure their emails are read.

Tips to spring-clean your email habits:

Pick up the phone. Instead of sending an email, try calling. For many topics, a telephone call will actually take less time.

Don't copy the world. I know one person who would cc his manager on almost every email he sent, thinking he was covering himself in case issues arose. As this employee found out, his CYA behavior eventually cost him his job.

Stop pressing the "reply all" button. Just because someone else decided to copy the world on an email response doesn't mean you should. Consider the "reply all" button off-limits.

Clearly state the topic in the subject line. For example: FYI Only - 2013 Budget Meeting Agenda Attached.

If action is needed, state it in the subject line. For example: For Your Approval - Updated 2013 Budget Proposal.

Be concise. State the topic, explain what actions you need from the person and include any due dates. Don't write a novel.

Set aside specific time each day for emails. If you can't keep yourself from checking constantly throughout the day, you're email-obsessed. Check messages in the morning, before or right after lunch and at the end of each day.

Lisa Quast is the founder of Career Woman, Inc., a career-coaching and business-consulting company. Email her at

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Karen Burns Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.

Kristen Fife Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.

Lisa Quast Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.

Randy Woods Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

Former contributors

Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.

Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."


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