5 Power User Email Tips to Help You Avoid the Phone
Business phone calls are unpleasant for many people. Some millennials refuse to even check their voicemail and for those who are shy, anxious, or introverted the idea of a business call is reminiscent of a root canal. Email provides a more comfortable platform for introverts, and when used well can help you delay or eliminate unnecessary phone calls.
Once you’ve got those basics of email etiquette down, it’s time get your inbox running at maximum efficiency. This will ensure timely replies and eliminate missed notifications–the biggest reason most coworkers or clients will pick up the phone. These tips will keep your emails clear and efficient so you can avoid lengthy and uncomfortable phone calls.
1) Learn how to snooze emails so you can get back to them later.
Many people treat their email inbox as a to-do list, but it’s easy for tasks to fall through the cracks. To avoid a desperate phone call from an email sender, you’ll have to stay on top of these action items. One way to do so is to snooze your email, just like an alarm clock.
Luckily, this feature is available on multiple platforms. Boomerang and Google’s Inbox app offer snooze for Gmail–for both your inbox and outbox. Just install the add-on. Streak works with an email to manage sales leads and outreach inquiries, and promotes snooze as a way to a ‘zero inbox’.
And don’t forget inbox aggregators like Spark. This multi-email platform allows you to pin emails to the top or snooze with a simple swipe.
2) Red flags, gold stars, and much more.
Marking items as important will help you address concerns before anyone has the chance to start dialing their phone. And flagging features available today go further than the gold star you might remember.
Gmail offers hidden options to use multi-colored stars, which you can use to denote different priority levels or different accounts. Search your Settings. Go to General, then the section titled Stars. Select “All Stars” to enable more than just a few colors. You’ll get red, orange, yellow, purple, green, and blue. Plus, you’ll get additional arrows, exclamations, checkboxes, and more.
If you don’t use Gmail, use flagging features to mark specific emails as a priority in programs like Outlook. You can display flag status by changing your Column view in View Settings. Set flags as reminders for your recipients or yourself based on dates (much like snoozing.) This will allow you to track an email or follow up by a specific date.
You can also set flag colors. Create colors through the use of flag categories. MS Office support provides a few simple steps to walk you through this option.
3) Install a grammar checker so you always sound well-spoken.
Almost every email program has basic spelling and grammar checks. Make sure these are turned on at all times. In Outlook you’ll find this under Tools>Options>Spelling. Click the “Always check spelling before sending” box.
Spell check should also be automatic for Gmail, but if not click the down arrow in the lower right corner of your message and click Check Spelling.
In Yahoo! Mail, go to the formatting toolbar, usually marked by either an ABC button or the word Format. You may need to switch to rich text, but then click the arrow near Spelling to change your settings.
The problem is, spelling isn’t the only issue that can derail your writing. If you want to correct effect to affect, or correctly catch “at vs an” you’ll need a heavy-duty grammar checker. Try Grammarly. This app is an add-on that works with many existing programs in-app, and can also be used as a pop-up for programs that don’t support the software.
4) Manage folders and filters to keep everything sorted.
If all your communication is happening over email, then sending everything to a single inbox folder can quickly result in overload. Gmail introduced a game-changing feature when they divided the inbox into Primary, Social, and Promotions, but you can take this one step farther.
Set up filters and put high-priority items front and center, but leave low-priority emails to be filed at a later date. Create detailed rules within Gmail to filter your messages explicitly. For example, you can set all messages from the VP@acmecompany.com to go straight to your primary inbox. Try setting a secondary filter flagging any messages with a subject line such as: “Buy this” to land in your promotions, no matter who the sender is.
If you aren’t using Gmail, don’t despair. Search under Rules in Outlook, Mac Mail, Lotus Notes, and in Options under Yahoo! too.
5) Use delayed send so you can go back in time.
Have you ever hit send on an email before you were finished writing? Worse yet, have you sent to the wrong recipient, or included internal notes you didn’t intend? Delayed send is like your personal time machine letting you go back and “unsend” that message.
Outlook offers a simple version of this feature. Look under Options>More Options>Delay Delivery. This delay will allow you to send at a specific time, leaving room to go back and make changes if needed.
Gmail expands on this idea with Undo Send. Originally part of Google Labs, this became a part of standard Gmail in 2015. Undo Send offers you the ability to “take back” that email quickly after you’ve sent it. Choose from options to wait 5, 10, 20, or 30 seconds before your message goes through.
You don’t have to hop on the phone to be efficient. Avoid uncomfortable calls by managing your inbox efficiently with flags and filters to ensure timely communication on important issues. Guarantee accuracy with correct spelling and grammar and delay the send of an unprofessional reply. By ensuring your email communication is top notch, you’ll be able to sit back behind that computer and relax, and maybe, even turn that cell ringer off.
Angela Nino is a training manager at Versitas–instructor-led, on-site or online business skills classes delivered exclusively to your team or company, including free web-based reporting of student performance and ROI stats delivered to your desktop. Angela also manages the Versitas blog.
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