The following is a guest post by Hime, one of Financial Samurai’s first readers. Hime is a manager at a strategy consultant firm who likes the violin and going on unplanned adventures. Hope you enjoy!
All right everyone, how many times have you read an email and said to yourself “I don’t feel like replying now I’ll just do it later” only to have that email disappear into the deep abyss and completely forget that you left the sender hanging?
Come on, I know you’ve done that at least once. If you do that more like every third email – CLUNK! That is me hitting you over the head with an oversized rubber hammer as I resist the urge to shake the stubbornness out of you. Think I’m overreacting? Maybe a little but I am trying to save your career and relationships so please pay attention!
DON’T LEARN THE HARD WAY
I’m generally fast and consistent about replying to emails right away (24 hours at the latest), especially to friends, family, clients, and the coworkers that I like…whoops I mean all my coworkers. However one time last year I goofed up big time….
I have a difficult client that is notorious for being very impatient and demanding, often with requests that my firm can’t accommodate due to breach of contract or financial limitations. One day I got a terse email from him complaining about a project my team generated late. He was in denial that the reason the report was late stemmed from his team giving us incomplete data that we had to chase down from them on multiple occasions.
I was so irritated that he was blaming us for their incompetence that I let the email fester in my inbox while I moved on to other things. He didn’t deserve any more of time! Boy was I stupid. What I didn’t realize was that because my client was upset (justified or not), he ended up becoming furious that I ignored his email, and he ended up calling my boss’s boss to chew him out about my insolence. Ouch. All of a sudden I became the idiot for not handling the situation and having to bow my head to the man who signs my paycheck. Whoops!
Even though we all receive 100s of emails a day, it is crucial to actively watch for emails that are addressed to you specifically or to your team. There will be times when a client may be lashing out for something that wasn’t your fault but it’s your responsibility to explain that to him/her in a timely manner whether over the phone or in a non aggressive email reply. Your career will depend on it. Don’t risk losing a client, a friend, or your reputation for being known as the infamous non-responder.
Tips for taking control of your email:
- Can’t respond right this minute? Use the Mark as Unread function so you’ll remember to reply later.
- Create email rules to automatically sort and route email for you.
- Stay organized and develop a system that works for you. My inbox only contains emails that I haven’t addressed. Everything I completed gets filed into a folder.
- Create meaningful folders and subfolders. A filing system is only effective when you know where to go to retrieve something.
- Prioritize and handle the most urgent emails first. Many programs like Outlook let you assign different color flags for tracking prioritization. You can even assign a category name for each color flag, very useful!
- Need to do research before having an answer to a client’s email? Reply right away to the client letting them know you’re investigating the issue and will follow up in a few days.
- Watch your total inbox size & empty your trash. A lot of servers will stop sending you new emails if your account has gone over the size limit.
- Steer away from arguing, complaining, and snide remarks in emails. Emails leave a permanent trail that you don’t want to sneak out and haunt you later.
- We’re all busy but that doesn’t mean you can ignore emails from your friends. Family will probably forgive you for being flaky but friends will hold it against you if you never respond to them.
- Check your spam folder regularly. Spam filters aren’t perfect and sometimes important emails can end up in there by mistake!
If you can practice all of those tips regularly you’re actively improving your communication! Don’t downplay email skills – staying on top of emails and responding in a timely and courteous manner are key skills now equally as important as face to face meetings in our current work environments. A lot of work places don’t record phone conversations but I can guarantee most of them are archiving every email you’ve ever sent! Get active with your email and avoid being known as the person with the black hole inbox!
Readers, how many e-mails do you have total in your inbox? How many of them are unread?
What would you say your average response time is over e-mail?
Is e-mail your preferred way of communication? If not, what is?
Sam @ Financial Samurai – “Slicing Through Money’s Mysteries”