I got back from my holiday last week to discover over 200 emails for me to read, delete, action and generally sort through (I’d only been away for 4 days and that included the weekend)! As with any administrative task I crack on in a ruthless manner because I just want the job completed as soon as humanly possible – in other words I take no prisoners. I hate, hate, hate having a cluttered email inbox and always have a slight panic when I have more than 10 emails in there at any one time! During this round of frenzied email sorting, I skimmed most of the emails, but I didn’t give them my full attention unless I knew precisely what that email required me to do. If the email was a bit vague, I either deleted it, filed it or well I probably did delete it. This got me thinking about how colleagues read my emails, especially those senior colleagues that have 200 emails a day to sort through. Do they skim my emails, do they read them at all? I know most of the senior folk have assistants to do that for them but as we all know if assistants are looking after someone else’s emails as well as their own there is probably less of a chance our emails will surface through the tidal wave of correspondence. How do assistants ensure their emails are read?

How do assistants ensure their emails are read?

Here are ten quick and easy tips:

  1. Be clear and precise. The recipient should be able to see at a quick glance what the email is about, how it relates to them and why it is essential to read.
  2. Bear in mind that your colleagues will all read their emails on different equipment (blackberry, iPad, computer etc.) which means that some people will only see the subject heading or could see the whole thing. Either way be concise and don’t expect everyone to click through to read the entire thing
  3. Make sure you put something in the subject heading, never leave this blank. The words you write into the subject heading should be relevant to the email. If the email is urgent make sure it is stated in the subject heading.
  4. Tell the reader what you want them to do. Be polite but also be firm – ask the question or relate the action required in a clear tone. Ask them if they have understood the request and if they need anything further from you to fulfil the demand.
  5. If the email is for their information only ensure you add FYI to the email subject heading. This means the recipient doesn’t have to rush to read the email and also will trust when you do have urgent emails as you know what the difference means! If the FYI is urgent perhaps a phone call would be better.
  6. Who is the email going to? Do they need it to clog up their inbox or will a phone call do or even walking over to talk to them (eek?!) If email is the best form of communication then make sure you don’t include anybody in the email that doesn’t need to see it – never overuse the cc button! Here are a few more communication options for you.
  7. Spend a few minutes proofreading your email for the apparent grammar and spelling mistakes but also for tone and style. It can be easy for emails to be misinterpreted.
  8. If you are sending an email to colleagues that you are friendly with smiley faces and other emoticons are fine if you don’t know the person very well or are outside of the office do not add smiley faces… ever! Impose the rule of professional and concise language on your emails at all times.
  9. If the email is to a person you’ve never met before and they don’t know who you are a quick one line of introduction is worthwhile. For example, ‘My name is XXX I am XXX’s Executive Assistant, I am contacting you today for …’
  10. Don’t send junk mail or irrelevant emails. If you have a bit of a reputation for sending unimportant emails, then don’t expect your important emails to be read at all.

40 Outlook Hacks Cheat Sheet

If you use Outlook to manage your emails then it is well worth downloading our 40 Outlook Hacks for scheduling meetings and managing emails.

How do assistants ensure their emails are read?