5 tips to better email

 In Unimenta Blog

We all use email but most of us are actually not very good at it! We are constantly checking it – even on the go or in the evenings and weekends when we need to wind down – and the inbox never seems to end. Email is probably one of your biggest time wasters, in fact. Why is this? 

Well, first of all we need to understand that the main reason we check email is so much is that we are compelled to do so and the more we check it the stronger that compulsion becomes. That’s because checking email activates our brain’s reward system which loves the combination of new and unpredictable. Our brain also operates in exactly the same way when it comes to any other notifications too.

Email is a time waster – You may start your work day with the best intentions – a healthy breakfast, that morning cup of coffee, chatting to colleagues, planning your day even – and then the inevitable happens: you log into your email and that’s it. This simple action has become automatic behaviour and takes up our attention and often at the best part of the day when we should be using that focus and attention for real work.


So it’s crucial that we get better at it. Here’s how:

  1. Manage your inbox – know that checking email is compulsive behaviour because it feeds into the dopamine loop, the reward system in our brains. We literally cannot help it. So we need to first of all control that dopamine loop by turning off cues and automatic notifications, training ourselves to have specific points in our day for checking email and becoming more aware of how speedily we respond to our phones. Check your inbox only at certain points in your day and then turn it off! Use filters to manage your recipients -that way you can respond to what you choose is important rather than everything becoming important.
  2. Don’t respond to email on the go – try to refrain from using your commute or downtime to respond to emails. Instead use those times for thinking, reflecting or being with loved ones and having some leisure time. Know that when you respond to email on the go  you’re not going to be as effective. Reading email on your phone automatically reduces the ability to absorb the information fully – too often it’s precisely because we are reading it on the go or whilst doing something else. So we are not giving it our full attention in the first place. It becomes too easy to tap out a quick response under the illusion that we are “keeping on top of things”. It’s also too easy to make mistakes, be misinterpreted, and cc the wrong people on top of that.
  3. Keep subject titles clear and unambiguous – so often I end up in a neverending email thread where the original subject of the email has been sidelined by random thoughts or different themes. This is especially the case when you have several cc’d in. Change that by creating separate subject headers when you introduce something new. You can only control your own behaviour!
  4. Keep your message short and direct – avoid overlong emails. Most people can’t absorb the information fully because, guess what, they are probably reading it on the go or just have too many emails to manage. So stick to one subject, 3 paragraphs and take emotions out of it. Often people over explain or add in emotions or thoughts that actually have nothing to do with the email.
  5. Decide whether you even need to write the email in the first place – we have lots of communication media open to us – might a phone call, text or meeting be better? Email is best used for factual information, confirming something or following up or for attaching a document. Use it just for these and watch your inbox shrink.


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