Are you getting email alerts on more than once device? All day long? Do you read them right away? Do you answer them right away?

Stop!

As important as effective communication is, it is probably not the most important part of your job and is certainly not the most important part of a freelance project, especially if you are working on a deadline. But we’ve all had those days when email alerts seem to interrupt us every couple of minutes [ding!–that was mine] and everything seems urgent when it’s in a popup window.

Here are some tips for not letting email be the only thing you handle in your workday:

  1. Use Filters. Route emails regarding a particular client or project into its own folder so that you can deal with them all during the time you have set aside for that client in any given day.  Have it bypass your regular Inbox and go straight into that folder to wait until you are ready.
  2. Set a Timer, Not an Alert. Set aside a certain length of time–15 minutes is good–to deal with email and when your time is up, stop. Turn off all those alerts on your desktop, your phone, your laptop and your tablet. Don’t look at your email except when you have it scheduled. Really. No pings, no popups. Many of us have a rather Pavlovian response to these alerts and cannot resist the lure.
  3. Avoid the Unnecessary. Be brief and to the point, without being abrupt. Make sure your emails have real content and achieve a communication goal. Don’t send “Thank you” or “Okay” emails and you can even add a “No reply necessary!” message if an issue has been resolved fully. Make your subject line clear to help your co-workers and clients know when it’s important to deal with your message quickly and when they can let it go for a little while.
  4. Take a Breath. If you are angry or emotional, write your message and save it to reread later when you have calmed down. If you are unsure about whether a message is going to achieve what you want it to or whether email is the right medium for your message, give it a little time to percolate. You might want to use the phone or meet face-to-face.
  5. Read It. Take a moment to check your email for tone of voice, for style and for typos. You only have so many chances to communicate clearly and make a good impression with your communications. Email is forever, don’t take unnecessary chances. It takes a lot longer to fix a miscommunication than it does to communicate well the first time.

We’ve all hit “Send” too quickly at some time or another. Take a bit of time over your email communications but don’t let them eat your whole day!

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative