Email Tips

Guest blogger Rob Williams delivers training on how to work smarter with technology to save time and get more in control of your life. Here’s his simple tips and etiquette on how to get back in control with email.

Let’s start at the beginning and limit the emails coming in, before talking about how to get better at writing email and managing it in your daily work/personal life.

Get a spam filter

The steps to take here depend on what kind of email service you have. Yahoo, Hotmail and especially Gmail have excellent Spam filtering built into their services, both if using webmail or via an email client.

Using common email programs like Windows Mail, Outlook, Thunderbird and Apple Mail?

Junk/spam tools are built in and on by default in many cases.  These catch the bulk of issues as they come in. If not turned on, internet search “junk email name of your email software” and you will return a hit on how to do it.

If using a server based email platform (i.e. businesses), most IT companies install with extensive spam filtering tools so don’t worry bar checking junk mail folder every now and then.

Check your social media settings

Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn send huge amounts of emails out if you don’t control the settings on their websites. Facebook alone has 58 tick boxes for email.  You can easily cut down a huge volume of email by switching off certain levels of notification. Look under “account” or “settings” in any social media site to control the ever increasing tide of email in your inbox


Many retailers (Amazon, Play, HMV, etc) send lots of marketing messages once you are on their database. They know who you are when you log into the site (via cookies) and they know what you have been looking at! Suddenly, there’s an email reminding you about something you looked at last week but didn’t buy.  It’s rare that you genuinely forgot to buy it so do you need to be reminded again?

You can easily stop these distractions coming into your inbox and let’s be honest; do you really want to spend money on something “cheap” that you didn’t really want before the email landed?

Clever marketing but bad on the wallet/purse or on your focus whilst working. Write an incoming mail rule to shift everything from these retailers into a folder to read later: you won’t even see it hit your inbox!


Carbon copy is for information only. If you require a response from a recipient, “To” them, do not CC them. CC keeps people in the loop but does not require their response. As a result of this, you shouldn’t drop someone out of a CC’ed email until you have fully closed the open email chain. It could be seen as a slight or rudeness

Don’t just CC everyone in your organisation. We are all busy, don’t clutter up people with stuff they don’t need to know.

Reply to All = DANGER

Check very carefully who is in the “Send to” fields when using “Reply To All”. There have been numerous incidents about where this has created huge issues. Just this past month or so, the Manchester City chief exec Garry Cook had trouble with a “Reply All”, whether he actually sent it or not.

Respect boundaries

Just because it’s email and seems less formal, don’t let common niceties slip.  You wouldn’t call Lord Sugar “Alan” to his face so you shouldn’t on email. “Mr”, “Miss” and “Mrs” remain as such until the other party drops the formality, as do full and shortened/nick names.

Mirror your correspondent

There is nothing worse than writing a long, meaningful email and getting a two word answer back; so much can be read into a short reply’s lack of length.  As a general rule, keep email brief and expand slowly to protect yourself from this potential threat to your confidence.

Get to the point

As with all writing, it’s best to front load an email with the key points. It guarantees you attention and may be the difference between being read or deleted.

Blaise Pascal once wrote “I would have written a shorter letter but I did not have the time” It’s easy to “stream of consciousness” an email but it won’t have the clarity of something that takes just a little more time.

Write carefully

Emails have no context and huge amounts of meaning can be read innocently into a basic email.  Think to yourself before sending “is this really the best method of communicating with this person?” Would it be better for me to call them? Send them a hand written letter? Email can get you into trouble but it rarely gets you out!

Additionally, take extra care with punctuation.

The meaning of

“No Thanks to you”

is very different to

“No. Thanks to you

The full stop completely changes the meaning of this sentence. This was from a real email and caused a huge email “flame” war unnecessarily.

If you think when writing an email “I’m not sure if I should send it?”, DON’T!

Step away from the keyboard! Take five minutes to think about it. You can’t unsend it and it may be better to just delete it and pick up the phone/see the person

Never send an email that just “passes the buck”

It is fine to delegate but don’t use email as a tool to avoid proper communication with someone or artificially buy yourself time by dumping it on someone else!

The DELETE key is your friend

Don’t be afraid to delete emails. A client once told me of a colleague he worked with in the “analogue” days before computers. Anything that landed in his in-tray that was new, he instantly threw in the bin.

“If it was important, they’ll write again and I’ll deal with it then!”

The lesson is that you will generally get reminded of anything that’s vital. However, don’t delete things like orders, invoices or personal documents that are key to your life.

If it takes less than two minutes to do it, DO IT NOW

Pretty self explanatory: it takes about two minutes to get back into whatever you were doing if you have been interrupted. If it’s a quick email back, get it out of the way.

Remove distractions

Allow yourself to turn off email if you really have to focus on a task.

Turn off the pop up email alerts and sounds unless you have a strategy, such as our efficientOutlook methodology, or work in time critical environments.

Hopefully this will give you all some benefits to your email lifestyle. Contact us if you want to learn more about how we can take you forward with our range of digital efficiency training.

Rob Williams


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