The Contents of a Great Email

Email Etiquette

Photo Credit: Inspired by This

In today’s day and age, email keeps us far more connected than ever before. Rather than picking up the phone or walking across the office building, we continuously send emails to our colleagues, friends, and family regarding matters from business to social plans and everything in between. So, how do you know if your email gets read or better yet, how do you know if your email actually served its purpose?

To ensure your emails are getting the attention they deserve, and by that I mean the right kind of attention, here are my tips for the contents of a great email:

  1. Subject Line
    • Use the Important Information Only. I once was working with a hospital director’s executive assistant on multiple visits for distinguished visitors and the aide asked, “For visit requests, please put Date of Visit, Name/Title of Visitor, and Meet Time in the subject line so I can see the main points quickly. Once I see that, I will know exactly what I am looking for in regards to planning and level of importance.”
    • Do Not Write the Message in the Subject Line. The subject line serves as a preview to the contents of the email, it should not read like a sentence or go on past the viewing pane.
    • Stick to the SubjectIf you need to discuss multiple topics that are unrelated with the recipient, I highly suggest doing so in different emails. This (1) ensures all your topics will be seen equally and (2) reduces confusion when answering questions by eliminating bunching responses together. If you do decide to include everything in 1 email, use an overarching subject line.
  2. Reply vs. Reply All
    • If you are placed on a group email thread and need to ask just the sender a question, reply only to the sender. There is no need to clutter everyone else’s inbox.
    • If you are sent a group invitation for an event, party, etc., submit your R.s.v.p. to the sender only. If you would like to know if other people are going, simply ask them yourself.
    • Only “Reply All” when all those on the message traffic will benefit from you sharing the information and it is pertinent to them. If you are the only person on the “To” line and the other people copied all need the information or are waiting for your direction then a “reply all” is appropriate.
  3. “To,” “CC,” and “BCC.” Always pay attention to which line your name is placed on in the email.
    • “To:” This means the email is directly to you and it is your responsibility to reply to the sender.
    • “Cc:” You are copied on the email for your awareness, but it is not your responsibility to take action. Allow the person on the “to” line to take action and send the first reply. If you need to comment or add information, do so after he/she sends the first reply.
    • “Bcc:” You are blind copied on this email, meaning it is only for your awareness. You should not reply, especially reply all, because the other recipients do not know you were included. If you need to discuss something from the email with the sender, seek out that individual only, most likely in person.
  4. Marking Something with “High Importance”
    • Only use this flag if your email is truly of high importance and needs someone’s attention quickly. Overuse of this flag will result in people skipping your emails because they will believe nothing is actually “highly important.”
    • If something is truly important and you do not receive a response in an appropriate amount of time, call the person rather than sending him/her another email.
  5. Greeting
    • Always include a greeting to the recipient at the beginning of your email. The type of greeting you use will vary based on the email being sent (formal, professional, personal/informal), but no matter what a greeting is always important! Here are a few examples:
      • Formal: “Dear,” always followed by the proper form address (Dr., Mr., Mrs., Military Rank, etc.).
      • Professional: “Good Morning, Good Afternoon, or Good Evening” always followed by the proper form address (Dr., Mr., Mrs., Military Rank, etc.).
      • Personal/Informal: “Hey, Hi, Hey there, etc.” followed by however you address the person in your personal life.
  6. Closing / Signature Block. Yes, you need one! Do not ever send an email without signing it!
    • Use a proper closing that reflects the relationship/type of email you are writing:
      • Formal: “Sincerely,” “Very Respectfully,” “Respectfully,”
      • Professional: You can close with something that reflects your personality yet is still appropriate. For example, “Best Wishes,” “Cheers!,” “Many Thanks,” etc.
      • Personal/Informal: This type of closing is completely up to you and the relationship you have with the recipient!
    • Clearly identify yourself. Use your full name, title/position, and company affiliation in your signature block.
    • Include your contact information. Your signature block should include your office phone number, email address, and company/organization web address. Be sure the signature block template is company/office-wide!
  7. Review your email before hitting send!
    • Check your email for grammar and missing words (when you type fast, it is bound to happen).
    • Remove any uncommon abbreviations or text message lingo/short words.
    • Be cautious when using emoticons. Emoji’s are appropriate in informal emails or internal correspondence (between coworkers), but should not be used for professional or formal correspondence.
    • Ensure the email is addressed to the appropriate people on the appropriate recipient lines.
    • If you stated in the email you included an attachment, be sure it is attached before sending.

By incorporating these extra touches into your emails, it will ensure you have proper email etiquette leading to your email receiving the type of attention and replies you desire.

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

How To: Appropriately Handle Work Stress

Photo Credit: My Pretty Pennies

Photo Credit: My Pretty Pennies

What is there to do when work is piling up on your desk and the requests keep coming in? Short of staying late and working extra hard to get it all done, how can you handle the stress level appropriately and graciously? Here are my tips for managing stress in the workplace:

  1. Minimize the Distractions
    • Put your phone away. If you are someone who keeps your personal phone on your desk, hide it in a drawer or keep it in your bag to prevent yourself from getting distracted or checking that most recent text which then turns into a long conversation.
    • Stay away from your social media accounts while at work (at least your personal ones). Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. can all be like a blackhole for losing free/spare time. What starts as a quick check for something you need to know can easily turn into hours of scrolling.
    • Keep office chatter to a minimum. While it is always wonderful to be friendly with your colleagues, sometimes it is necessary to say, “I would love to chat, but I have a lot to tackle today. Unfortunately, I have to cut our conversation short.” Just remember, this refers to personal/social conversations, not professional meetings or talks with your boss/supervisor. However, if a meeting is getting off topic and taking too long, do not be afraid to steer the conversation back to business so you can wrap up the meeting.
  2. Manage Your Time
    • Stay organized. Keep a running “To Do” list to track what needs to get done or what needs to be assigned. This is especially helpful if you are working on more than one project at once. Not to mention, checking something off the list is an incredibly refreshing feeling! Additionally, keep your work space clean. Working in a cluttered environment produces anxiety for a lot of people.
    • Prioritize. Evaluate your workload and decide what needs to get done when. Keep timelines in mind and be sure you are working on the matters that take precedence. Working between multiple projects is doable, but sometimes you need to focus all your attention in one direction.
    • Make a timeline or schedule for yourself. Break down your work into smaller, more manageable tasks and have checkpoints along the way. Think of it as setting mini goals for yourself to help reach project completion!
  3. Ask for Help and Advocate for Yourself
    • Delegate roles and responsibilities. If you have a large scale project, event, etc. you are working on and know you need assistance, ask your coworkers. Organize a team meeting and delegate roles and responsibilities to others. Just remember, do not pass off your work to others – they are there to help, not do your job for you.
    • Advocate for yourself. If your boss is continuously passing things to you and your pile is growing larger than what you can handle, ask to meet with your boss. Explain to him/her that the quality of your work is important to you and while you appreciate his/her faith in you for asking to do so much at once, you do not want to spread yourself too thin and compromise the quality of your work. Ensure your boss you will get the work done by discussing an achievable way forward.
  4. Remember to Breathe!
    • Literally breathe. Just take a deep breath and exhale the stress.
    • Every so often it is good to take a break from the computer. Get up from your chair and stretch or try a relaxing yoga pose.
    • If you have a few minutes to spare, take a short walk outside for a change of scenery and a breath of fresh air!
  5. Take Time for Yourself
    • Take Your Lunch Break. It is good to get out of your office and eat somewhere other than at your desk. Not only does eating at your desk keep you sedentary for longer, it also leads to eating more.
    • Use Your Vacation Days. After a long, high intensity period in the office, it is good to reward yourself with a little “rest and relaxation.” Planning trips (long or short) and having something to look forward to can be a big motivator to keep pushing through the busy times.

In stressful situations, what have you done to manage it well?

Just remember, you are capable of handling all you are being asked to do!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

Email Etiquette: Handling a Busy Inbox

In both our professional and personal lives, we often receive a high volume of emails on a daily basis. On those days when your inbox is so full you are almost scared to open it, how should you handle the massive amount of inquiries that need a response? Here are my tips for managing a busy inbox!

  1. Wait at least 30 minutes before checking your email in the morning
    • Help yourself to start the day on the right foot. No one wants to wake up and start answering emails right away. So, give yourself 30 minutes to get your day started without the distraction of technology. If there is a work or personal emergency that requires your immediate attention, you will get a phone call about it, not an email.
    • If you start answering emails, I am rather sure you will never be ready for work on time. Get yourself ready to conquer the day then go conquer!
  2. Skim your inbox to find the high priority subjects
    • When you first open your inbox, start by looking through the recipients and the subject lines to ensure you read the high priority emails first.
    • Make a mental list of the priority of the rest of your emails and work from that point.
    • If you know it is junk mail, delete it.
  3. Read your inbox emails and your written replies more than once
    • If you have an email that you know requires your undivided attention or further research, mark it is as unread and return to it once you have all the information you need. Nothing is worse than responding to an email and realizing you missed the key questions that needed a response or you left out the bulk of your reasoning and needed follow-up questions.
    • Read your reply more than once to ensure you hit the key points and your grammar, delivery, and thought process come across as you wish.
    • If you have an assistant or co-worker, ask them to proofread your reply if you are unsure about something.
    • If you are writing about a sensitive or emotional topic, write a draft response then step away from it for a while. Come back to it when you have thought about it more and then edit it. If you need to, do this a few times to ensure your email reads as you wish.
  4. Unsubscribe to the hordes of advertisements you receive
    • Every store, news outlet, etc. wants you to be part of their listserv… It is OK to say no or to unsubscribe.
    • Keep the places/sources you regularly use and unsubscribe from those that simply clog your inbox with the daily/weekly reminders.
  5. If you are going out town or will be unavailable by email, use an out-of-office automatic reply
    • Not only does this help to manage people’s expectations of when they will receive a response, it will also provide them with contact information in case of an emergency.
    • An example of a simple, yet effective out-of-office reply is:
      “Sir/Ma’am,

      Thank you for you for contacting me. I am out of the office without access to/with limited access to my email and will not return until Monday, 23 February. If this is an urgent matter, please contact my office (or specify a co-worker if he/she is taking over your work in your absence) at (xxx) xxx-xxxx.

      I look forward to speaking with you soon. Have a great day!”

  6. Keep all your emails in archived/organized folders
    • You never know when you may need to reference an old email or find someone’s contact information.
    • Once you have responded to an email, move it into the proper folder. This will let you know you have replied to the email, reduce the number of emails in your inbox, and give you a place to look back to if you need to review a message in the future.
  7. Some emails need an in-person or phone response
    • If you receive an email you know you need to respond to, but do not feel it is appropriate to respond via email or that a more in-depth conversation should be had, call the person or schedule a meeting to discuss the matter.
  8. Have a technology curfew
    • Set a time for yourself when you put your phone/tablet/laptop away at night.
    • Do one final review of your inbox and ensure nothing urgent came in or that you missed anything from earlier in the day then turn it off until tomorrow! As I said about the morning email check, if there is a work or personal emergency that requires your immediate attention, you will get a phone call about it, not an email.
    • A lot of research has been showing exposure to blue-light (the light in tech gadgets) at night, prevents a good night’s sleep and reduces the amount of time you spend in REM sleep. A recent Washington Post article speaks to research on the matter.

I hope these tips help you to manage your busy inbox more successfully! Most importantly, remember everyone deserves a response, but be mindful of how and when you respond.

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

Having a Successful, First Professional Interaction

This week, I have the opportunity to connect with a professional in my field and ask her my questions about her career, the field, and what it takes to “make it.” I want to ensure I make a great first impression so I have put a lot of time into preparing for my phone call with her. Part of my prep has been to think about what goes into making this a great conversation so, I am sharing some tips on how to have a successful professional interaction.

  1. Do your research!
    • Find the professional’s bio and be familiar with his/her backgroud and professional story.
    • If the professional has started their own company, business, etc., research that as well.
    • Check out his/her social media (TV appearances/interviews, LinkedIn, Twitter, Professional Website or Blog, Professional Facebook page, Pinterest etc.).
    • Pull out some “fun facts” or things you have in common to show you are interested in him/her as an individual and not just a professional. This also helps ease into the business conversation.
  2. Be prepared
    • Once you have done your background research, create a list of questions and topics you want to discuss. Come up with new and inventive questions! By this, I mean make sure your questions are not answered by the information readily available to you in the research you did in step one. If you have questions about career progression, ask for suggestions on how to gain experience, what credentials are important in the field, and what training/educational opportunities are available.
  3. Be persistent, yet patient and polite
    • It may take a few tries before hearing back from the person or being able to schedule a time to meet with him/her. Make sure you ask the professional, “When is best for your schedule?” and find a way to meet the time they give you.
    • It may not be possible to meet the person as quickly as you hope. The fact you are establishing contact via email or phone before being able to meet in a person is a great accomplishment and first step so keep in touch with the individual!
  4. Be focused
    • Whether meeting in person or speaking over the phone, environment is key. Be sure to choose a location with minimal distractions and not a lot of noise: You want to ensure you will stay engaged in the conversation (and be able to hear!).
      • If the meeting is taking place in person and not at the professional’s office, choose a small, quiet coffee shop or bistro where you can sit and talk easily.
      • If you will be speaking over the phone, be sure you are sitting somewhere you will not be distracted by other people.
        • Close the door to your office, room, etc.
        • Silence notifications on your phone
        • Do not have things open on your computer which will distract you
  5. Express your gratitude and thanks!
    • The professional you are connecting with no doubt has a busy schedule because he/she is successful in the field (after all, that is why you are making the connection!). Be sure to thank him/her each time you connect.
      • For example, “Thank you for be so willing to speak/meet with me. I greatly appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule.”
    • You can always send a thank you note! People appreciate you taking the time to recognize their effort.

I hope these tips give you a boost of confidence to make a positive and successful professional interaction. Now get out there and start networking! If you have questions about any of these tips or something I did not mention, please leave a comment!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra