Tips to Boost Your Productivity
By Steve Singleton
Most full-time office
workers have an employer-provided e-mail account, and chances are,
it's with Microsoft Outlook. Many of us send and receive dozens
of e-mails per day. Here are some tips about making the most of
Outlook's substantial capabilities when you are the sender. Not
taking advantage of what is available is like keeping your brand
new Ferrari continually in first gear.
If you think you are
already on the Outlook fast track, at least slow down long enough
to check out the points lower in the list (arranged roughly from
most to least important). Since nearly all of us are self-taught
in our Outlook expertise, we are all at different levels. Now, let's
rev 'er up and see what she'll do!
1. Know when to call and when to e-mail.
The rule of thumb is,
the less intrusive you are the better, which is definitely e-mail.
If you need to transmit and/or receive information in a hurry, however,
a phone call is better. But what if you know the recipient is tied
up in a conference call though still in their office? You might
be able to reach them by e-mail without interrupting their call.
E-mail also works better if your target is away from the office,
especially if you know they have a Blackberry. If a dialogue between
you is necessary, a phone call is probably more efficient.
2. Carefully craft your subject line
Unfortunately, too few
people give their subject line the attention it deserves. How many
times do you get an e-mail with a blank subject line or one that
is unhelpful, like "message for you"? Since many of us
scan our inbox without the reading pane turned on, the subject line
and name of the recipient is how we determine whether to open the
message. Make your subject line convey the most vital information
in about six to eight words. If that number of words is the entire
content of your message, consider letting the subject line carry
the entire message. If you choose this option, end the subject line
with "", which stands for "End of Message."
3. Carefully word your e-mail
Remember Rudyard Kipling's
famous poem, which begins:
I keep six honest serving-men
They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
These six features should
be prominent in your e-mail messages. If at all possible, put them
all in the opening paragraph, because, unfortunately, many people
read the first paragraph of an e-mail and then scan the rest of
the message. If the highly pertinent material is not in the opening
paragraph, they will probably miss it.
4. Make a habit of reading over the e-mail before you send.
Just a few seconds of
proofreading could save you the embarrassment of misspelled words
or tangled grammar. Sometimes the mistake materially changes the
message, as in leaving out the "not" in the sentence,
"I will not be able to work overtime on Thursday evening."
Give yourself some reassurance, and save yourself a lot of grief.
5. Learn how to recall a message.
Have you ever discovered,
three seconds after you hit "Send", that your outgoing
message has a serious error? You can recall your message, and, if
you do it immediately, you stand a good chance of retrieving your
mangled message without your recipient's knowledge of your mistake.
Here's how to recall a message:
- Go to the "Sent"
folder and open the message from there. NOTE: You have to actually
open the message. You will not be able to access "Recall"
from the Inbox's reading pane.
- With the cursor in
the "Message" field, select "Recall this message"
from the Actions menu.
6. Set the levels of importance and sensitivity.
Outlook provides three
options to identify the relative importance of your message: high
importance, signified by a red exclamation point; low importance,
indicated by a blue downward arrow; and normal, the default setting.
Just use the high-importance icon sparingly; no one listens when
you cry "Wolf!" too often.
The same holds true for
the sensitivity levels (confidential, private, personal, and normal).
Both of these bundles of options are available in a dialogue box
that pops up when you select the "Options..." menu (it
only appears when you are Composing a message). If you select one
of the levels other than "Normal," a pre-set message will
appear above the "To/From" rows with the preset messages.
Because it appears there, however, and not in the message window
itself, an inattentive recipient can easily overlook it. You might
desire, therefore, to repeat the sensitivity or importance message
within the message window.
7. Flag your message for follow-up.
While composing your
message, if you click on the menu icon that looks like a pennant
on a stick, a dialogue box will appear that permits you to select
from a variety of options to identify what kind of response you
are expecting. Your options include: Call, Do not forward, Follow
up, For your information, Forward, No response needed, Read, Reply,
Reply to all, and Review. You also have the option of setting the
day and time (in 30-minute increments) for the response deadline.
Once more, when the recipient
gets your e-mail, all of this information will appear as a column
within the Inbox if that column is turned on and above the "To/From"
rows of the message itself. Keep in mind that your recipient might
easily overlook this information unless you repeat it in the message
window. In e-mail communications, a little redundancy is a good
8. Use read receipt requested
when your message requires an immediate response.
That same "Options..."
dialogue box permits you to check "Delivery receipt" (almost
never needed for internal e-mailing) and "Read receipt requested."
Requesting a read receipt accomplishes two purposes: it lets you
know that the recipient opened your message, and it conveys to them
a sense of importance and urgency. If these two purposes do not
pertain to your message, uncheck read receipt requested.
Remember that the recipient
can by-pass your request either by reading your message from the
reading pane or by choosing not to return the receipt. Requesting
a read receipt, however, can be useful if you are unsure whether
the recipient is available. If no receipt from your urgent messages
gets back to you, you'd better try making a phone call.
9. Turn off receipt requested
and read receipt requested, especially when e-mailing to large group.
Turning on receipt requests
unnecessarily is a good way to flood your Inbox with meaningless
messages, especially if you e-mail goes out to a large group. Do
yourself and them a favor: uncheck it in the "Options..."
By learning how to use
Outlook--or whatever e-mail application you have--more effectively,
you can boost your productivity with little or no cost. Happy e-mails
Copyright © 2005
Steve Singleton, All rights reserved.
Steve Singleton has been a business consultant, news editor, reporter,
professional speaker and trainer, and college instructor. He is
currently coordinates midwestern and southwestern internal communications
for a major financial printer. He has written and edited several
books and numerous articles on subjects of interest to Bible students.
He has taught seminars and workshops in 11 states and the Caribbean.
Go to his DeeperStudy.com
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