Improving your e-mail communication

By Pat Wray
Want to improve your craft? Start by improving your communication, specifically your e-mail communication.
As in, answer your e-mails. Now. Not next week or next month.
Oh, I know. You get 20, 50, 80 or more each and every day. Many e-mails are junk. You are so busy. Dealing with e-mails is not a good use of your time. Yada … yada … yada. Oh, woe is you.
News flash! You are not alone. Everyone has the same problem. But many people deal with their e-mails far more effectively than you do, and as a result, they miss far fewer important messages and alienate far fewer people. Because they are responsive, theirs are the first names considered when new opportunities arise.
How do they do it? Why are they not overwhelmed like you? Here’s why:

  1. They unsubscribe. They eliminate junk. Upon receiving an unwanted e-mail the first time, they take the time to respond and opt out of future communications. They do this with businesses and with friends from college who have devolved into serial forwarders of bad jokes and political attacks. They deal with unwanted e-mails one time rather than four times a week for the rest of their lives.
  2. They use their e-mail program’s filtering system. It is far better to review and delete your junk mail on a weekly basis than to fiddle with it daily.
  3. They organize the remainder. We have all lost important communications in the labyrinth of an overgrown inbox. This is why God gave us folders. Use them.

But you still have a pile of e-mails needing responses and there’s still not enough time. So, deal with the ones requiring immediate action and put the others in a to-do-soon folder. Get them out of your inbox, but never put an e-mail in that folder until you have responded, in some fashion, to the sender. Let them know their e-mail did not disappear into the lost galaxy of the Internet.
Your response may be as simple as “Got it—get back to you soon,” or something a little more substantial. This will take almost no time, you can even copy and paste it if you want, but it will accomplish two things. First, it lets the senders know you value their time and effort. Second, it eliminates their tendency to send their message a second or third time.
And don’t forget to deal with the contents of the to-do-soon folder soon.
One final note: E-mail is wonderfully quick but speed is not, or should not be, the same as abrupt. Remember your e-mail conveys a message beyond the words. Take care to ensure the hidden message of your e-mail conveys the respect you intend. A simple salutation goes a long way.
Make sure the time you save with e-mail is not purchased with injured feelings, a poor trade indeed. ◊
Pat Wray, of Corvallis, Ore., is a freelance writer, photographer, book author and regular contributor to Game & Fish Magazines. Contact him at

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