Tackling email overload can be a challenge. But not for some. From the e-babes ( Marsha Egan and myself), and as promised, here are fifty top tips from fifty top PAs and EAs at the recent Executive Secretary Live Conference organised by Lucy Brazier of Executive Secretary magazine.
Our thanks to all who contributed to our session on Taming the Email Tiger and to this blog with their top tips.
|“Action by, date” in the email subject line.|
|Get out of the habit of checking email every 5 min!|
|When writing an email, the last thing I fill out is the “to” or “cc” field, so in case I hit send button too early.|
|How do you send the calendar schedule as part of the email – only showing busy/free times?|
|Close the inbox to look at when you choose to – but set a ‘new item alert’ for those from the remotely working executive and train the executive!|
|Read Marsha’s book!|
|The knowledge that sending each email costs more global energy and therefore causes more environmental damage than sending a letter. (It’s because of location of server (?), power they use etc to process) makes me cut the number of emails I send.|
|To reduce ‘cc’ traffic when you have actioned emails on behalf of your director, change the subject line to include an eye catching statement such as (C have actioned P). Your boss can then just delete/move on to the next email!|
|When emailing external people: include the company’s name in the beginning of the subject line so they immediately know who they are being contacted by.|
|Colour code emails from most senior people.|
|It is easy for me to open emails which I am going to do during the day, others I stay unread for another day. Open emails help me to see information and after their end I close them. So the goal is not to have open email after work day.|
|Turn off emails that go to two places, eg yours and shared mailbox – one place = read once!|
|I indicate in subject list of the box what action I have taken or what needs doing.|
|Use categories, throw out the ones in outlook and create your own headings that relate to your role – invaluable.|
|Take an electronic day off with your day off (no email especially).|
|Delete emails which don’t have any importance.|
|Have a standard closure in your signature.|
|Using quick parts created in email, ie requesting travel arrangements, employee movements, colour code emails to identify Directors.|
|Don’t check/reply to emails out of office hours or people become to expect you to be working and contactable 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.|
|Drag emails into tasks to set deadlines.|
|Use Outlook categories when you drag and drop your inbox to action folders. So when you plan your day and it’s time to action ‘travel’ all travel emails are categorised in one place in outlook.|
|Write your email content and put the recipient name in last to avoid sending it prematurely.|
|When I check the mail I like to put the red flag and have the mail in to do list.|
|Don’t ping pong in emails for diary dates. I set up dates in doodle poll and send a link for all recipients to advise on their availability via doodle poll (www.doodle.com)|
|Put useful links either on notes, or into quick parts. Colourise inbox against your VIPs mails and use quick one click to action type of action in colour.|
|The control delete buttons so emails go completely rather than just into your deleted items. Also block sender so that goes into junk email.|
|For conferences/questions from participants: I pre-prepare std/route responses (we tend to have same Q’s all the time!) in order and then copy & paste and adjust as required. This saves a lot of time for our big meetings!|
|Turn off email notifications – has been my biggest time saver.|
|Don’t send emails outside off office hours. People read them on their smart phones and they appear ‘read’ in the computer mailboxes so they forget to respond.|
|Move your message to your task list.|
|For people working in global organisations, set up the delay send option so that your emails don’t get sent until their working hours. Also works well for people who do emails over weekend. It means that people with phones etc don’t feel the need to answer the emails in the evenings/weekends in response to their boss’s email. Also create a folder for meeting request and then set up a rule to send them all to the folder.|
|The delete button for unsolicited sales emails that do not interest me within 5 seconds.|
|Direct sorting into folders: personal/family & friends; boss, management group; newsletters|
|Colour code categories: travel required, invoices, expenses, to do, meeting set up, event, to follow|
|I’ve had my notifications turned off for a few months now – it’s been a great stress management tool. I do have a rule that my manager’s emails have a pop up notification – this allows me to prioritise his request over other actions. This works when if it’s something urgent. PS Luckily my manager has a wonderful email etiquette – so the emails form him are mostly actions, those that need to get done fairly quickly.|
|Attachments – copy and paste basic attachments into body of text – so it is easier to read as opposed to opening item up.|
|My tip is: never answer first on emails where you are in cc, but your response is required. Wait for person who is in ‘to’ field answer and then, if needed, do it yourself. Sure that the answer can hugely change!|
|Sending a networking directory excel file as a link (1) share excel workbook, then close (2) right hand click on file name on network drive and ‘create short’ (3) after shortcut created, right hand click, select send as email (4) when opened by receiver, changes can be (?) to file and can be ‘saved’ (don’t do save as). Works with Lotus Notes and can only be ?? if users and recipients have access to network drive/disc (?). Set up a rule on outlook or lotus notes that emails ‘from’ or with certain subject goes directly into a named folder, eg flight bookings.|
|I actually put emails in calendar entries to get them out of my inbox.|
|Use rules on Outlook for flyers, newsletters, travel to go to the named folder.|
|When I am chasing information for Director’s report which I have a time constraint on, I use the flag in outlook, which puts an alert in their inbox that I need the info by a certain date/time.|
|Attend a talk given by Marsha and Monica!|
|Use flags and reminders – action/discuss with boss. But keep in inbox so will continue with this but more out of inbox.|
|Switching off email notifications, meaning less distractions. Create rules – emails I’m cc’d in automatically in one folder, out-of-office go into another.|
|Use of draft box for important emails. Write, leave for a few minutes, check again before sending.|
|I’ve created a to-do-folder and put every email in, when I am going to fulfill the task I move it back to the empty inbox in order that I can see this email.|
|Print emails that need to be actioned and they can be added as a physical to do.|
|Use your OOO to manage expectations about when to expect a reply.|
|Use colour coding for email to be actioned.|
Click here ExecSecLive 2013 tips to download as a pdf.
Do you have a tip on either how to control email overload or corporate email etiquette that we have not yet published?
Executive Secretary Live – a two day event for top notch Executive Assistants and PAs from around the world was launched this weekend. Delegates came from the UK, Russia, Belgium, France, Australia and the USA. It was a momentous and exciting two days. There was a mix of sessions on the soft skills such as communications and networking and the hard skills of producing a procedures manual and using Microsoft Office to save time. For those who missed the event, here is my take on the highlights.
Bonnie Low-Kramen opened the conference with a session on how crucial communications skills are if you want to be the ultimate top EA/PA. She discussed how to bridge the gap between the way different generations and personalities communicate. For me the top tips were around improving your body language.
There were two jaw dropping session from Vickie Sokolov Evans on how to exploit the power of Microsoft Office. Most of us use only 13% of the functions in Office. Yet there are another 87% which are guaranteed to save you time if only you know where they are and how to use them. The ones which set me alight were how to use the Styles function.
Why is it that some days it all goes pear shaped? One reason is often lack of clear procedures. Julie Perrin ran an excellent hands-on workshop on how to produce a Procedures Manual which will not only save your day but help those who cover for you. Having such a manual will help you stand out as an outstandingly well organised PA/EA.
How many of us reach a certain age and point in our career when we think can I grow any more? Eth Lloyd gave a very personal account of gaining a Masters late in life and through that experience helping others to reach for the sky.
What is it about some people that they walk into a room and can persuade people to do something? It’s all down to charisma as Susie Barron Stubley showed us. You need to create presence, power and at the same time warmth and these are skills which can be learned if you work at changing your mental state from negative to positive. Neutralize negativity was her key message for me.
This was a point which Doug Dickerson underlined in his session. Attitude and expectations are what limits most of us from becoming centers of excellence. Raise your expectations and you will be amazed at what you can achieve was what I took away from Doug and Eth’s sessions.
Laura Schwartz closed the conference with an amazing session on the power of networking and how to do it properly. The key messages for me are to research who you are meeting and identify two key people you want to meet at each event and what you want to ask them. And remember it is not about what the other person can do for you, but what you can do for them.
What was I doing at this extraordinary meeting of talented speakers and delegates? I was one half of the ‘E-Babes’. I had the enormous pleasure and honour of running an email best practice workshop with Marsha Egan of Inbox-Detox. Lucy Brazier created a first by having the two of us as leading experts on email best practice on stage at the same time and we had a lot fun thank you.
The speakers and the delegates made this the most stimulating conference I have attended for a long while. Topping it off there was a private ten course taster meal in Harrods Food Hall which included some fine wine!
If you missed this inaugural Executive Secretary LIVE event make a diary note for next year. That is if you want to expand your skills and become even more successful.