If any two people know something about email, it’s Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg, two former Google executives who’ve published a book titled How Google Works. Schmidt, now Google’s executive chairman, served as the company’s CEO during the years that Gmail grew into a popular communications tool; Rosenberg once served as senior vice president of products, which means he spent every day figuring out how people interface with software.
How Google Works is meant to serve as a guidebook of sorts for running an information-technology company, a job that involves sending (and receiving) tons of email. So it’s logical that Schmidt and Rosenberg would devote some of the book’s length to a discussion of how to use email in a way that’s not only effective, but will also save your sanity. As excerpted in Time, these are their nine rules for good email hygiene:
1. Respond Quickly. “Being responsive sets up a positive communications feedback loop,” the two wrote, “whereby your team and colleagues will be more likely to include you in important discussions and decisions, and being responsive to everyone reinforces the flat, meritocratic culture you are trying to establish.” It’s also polite.
2. Write Pithily. Nobody needs to be a 19th-century poet on email. Get to the point with your prose, and save everybody time.
3. Keep a Clean Inbox. “Any time you spend thinking about which items in your inbox you should attack next is a waste of time.” Make a point to handle emails as soon as you read them, rather than leaving action for some later point.
4. Handle Email in LIFO Order (Last In First Out). That rule seems pretty self-explanatory.
5. Forwarding Is Your Friend. “When you get a note with useful information, consider who else would find it useful. At the end of the day, make a mental pass through the mail you received and ask yourself, ‘What should I have forwarded but didn’t?’”
6. Use the Blind Copy Feature Sparingly. “The only time we recommend using the bcc feature is when you are removing someone from an email thread.”
7. Don’t Yell. NEVER USE ALL-CAPS, OKAY? OKAY?!
8. Make It Easy to Follow Up. “When you send a note to someone with an action item that you want to track, copy yourself, then label the note ‘follow up.’” That makes it easier to loop back about action items in the future.
9. Make Email Easy to Search. “If you get something you think you may want to recall later, forward it to yourself along with a few keywords that describe its content.”
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