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Evergreen advice on email and voicemail

Managing the Trend Toward Increasing Use of Electronic Messaging Tools

I've been Googling around for good advice on how people deal with "email overload," and I think this 1999 report from the CommCore Consulting Group may contain some of the more sound and evergreen advice out there for not contributing to the noise (cf: "Writing sensible email messages").

It covers etiquette and best practices for both voicemail and email. Some of the best tips on email:

  • Keep e-mail short and focused on one issue, and reflect this issue in the subject heading. Many people are inundated with e-mail. Focusing each e-mail on one issue allows time-crunched recipients to prioritize your e-mail and respond as necessary. Including a sharp, strong subject header can differentiate your e-mail and attract your reader to your message...
  • Don’t use the Reply to All function unless everyone needs to know the information. Copying people on messages unnecessarily can overload systems, annoy readers and waste everyone’s time...
  • Manage your e-mail. Try to keep the number of messages in your in-box at a minimum by cleaning out e-mail in-boxes and message logs frequently. Use the filing system in your e-mail program to save needed messages to the appropriate folder. This clears space in your in-box, but saves the e-mail for future reference...

And on voicemail:

  • Prepare for every telephone call expecting to get voicemail. This will help you focus your message and prevent rambling. You should treat your voicemail message as a short presentation, thinking it through ahead of time, not during the recording...
  • Keep your voicemail short and to the point. Don’t bore your listener or bury important information at the end...
  • If you are conducting a conversation via voicemail, i.e., trading repeat voicemails without reaching someone in person, summarize the situation and what you need from them in your message. This will help move the conversation along. For example, you might include a list of information that you need to close a deal. The recipient can gather the information and for the next phone call, or even leave it on a return voicemail to you...

Six-year-old advice -- but probably more useful and timely now than it was in 1999.

Seem all too obvious to you? See if it seems so obvious next time you're changing planes, have a coffee in one hand, your carry-on in another, and your ear pressed against the Nokia as you try to blow through twenty-some voice mails.

Dimes to donuts, half of your messages will have you wishing obvious advice like this had been absorbed by more of the people in your life.

About Merlin

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Merlin Mann is an independent writer, speaker, and broadcaster. He’s best known for being the guy who created the website you’re reading right now. He lives in San Francisco, does lots of public speaking, and helps make cool things like You Look Nice Today, Back to Work, and Kung Fu Grippe. Also? He’s writing this book, he lives with this face, he suffers from this hair, he answers these questions, and he’s had this life. So far.

Merlin’s favorite thing he’s written in the past few years is an essay entitled, “Cranking.”




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