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IT seems almost passé to write now about how to use e-mail. After all, haven’t most of us moved past that to tweeting, texting, Facebooking and whatever the social network flavor-of-the-month is?
No. It’s still a vital part of business communication (and personal, too, at least for those over 25 or so). Yet as common as e-mail is, far too many people don’t know how to use it well — or understand the risks they run of using it inappropriately on the job.
“The death of e-mail has been greatly exaggerated,” said Mike Song, chief executive of GetControl.net, which provides training on time management and e-mail efficiency. Research by his company has found that most employees spend at least a third of their time at work on e-mail.
And while many people do use LinkedIn, Facebook and instant messaging, none of those outlets have replaced e-mail, for the most part, but they have added yet another method of communicating — and another way to waste time.
Don’t get me wrong. I use e-mail all the time. It makes my personal and professional life immeasurably easier. But just because it’s commonplace doesn’t mean we use it properly and productively.
I found helpful (and amusing) an e-mail check list first issued by Seth Godin, a blogger and author of numerous books, about three years ago and recently reposted because he felt most people still misuse and abuse e-mail.
The No. 1 question to ask yourself before hitting “send” on the next e-mail, Mr. Godin says, is this: “Is this going to one person?”
He’s referring, of course, to the annoying “reply all” button. Mr. Song found that most professionals say their colleagues use “reply all” too frequently, but say they themselves hardly use it.
If you are “replying all,” Mr. Godin says to then ask yourself: “Have I really thought about who’s on my list?...