Over the last decade I’ve learned a lot of lessons about workplace communication. Here are three of the most helpful:
1. Always use a descriptive subject line for emails.
Emails are no longer mere digital letters, they have become reference tools, approval chains, task lists, and brainstorming seasons. Help your recipient get the basic idea of your email before they open it with a descriptive subject. As an added bonus, this will make the email chain much easier to search for and spot later on.
2. Save interruptions for emergencies.
It takes about 20 minutes for the mind to fully refocus on a project after being interrupted. Ask yourself the question: "Will something bad happen if this issue is not addressed immediately?" if the answer is "no," send an email or add to a meeting agenda for later.
3. Only use online chatting for quick-response questions and easy, urgent tasks.
Save more involved tasks and questions for email or face-to-face meetings. For most people, email inboxes function as a type of task list. If managed properly, the inbox will be regularly cleared and all emails processed. Chats have no inbox, so missed chats are often missed for good and not generally referenced again. Unless an issue can be resolved in a few seconds and must be dealt with immediately, just send an email. This let’s the person respond when they are able and adds it to their email “task-list.”