Email Charter

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10 Tips to avoid email overload | An adapted version of the Email Charter created in response to widespread acknowledgement that email is getting out of hand for many people.

The original started as a blog post by TED Curator Chris Anderson and TED Scribe Jane Wulf. Some contributors to the original Charter are listed here.

Share the Email Charter by adding it to your email signature.

1. NNTR / EOM

If your email message doesn’t require a reply, add NNTR (No need to respond) to the Subject line or the end of your message.

If your message can be expressed in half a dozen words, just put it in the subject line, followed by EOM (End of Message). This saves the recipient having to open the message.

2. Respect Recipients’ Time

As the sender, it is on you to minimise the time the email will take to process.

3. Attack Attachments

Don’t use graphics files as logos, or signatures that appear as attachments. Instead insert the image from URL - this will prevent the image being included as an attachment. Time is wasted trying to see if there’s something to open (it also takes more server power to send - which isn’t great for the environment!).

4. Cut Contentless Responses

You don’t need to reply to every email, especially not those that are themselves clear responses. An email saying “Thanks for your note. I’m in.” does not need you to reply “Great.” That just cost someone another 30 seconds.

5. Short or Slow Responses are Not Rude

Just because you can respond fast doesn’t mean you should. It is okay if replies take a while to come. Please don’t take it personally.

6. Make Subject Lines and Content Clear

Start with a subject line that clearly labels the topic. Try including a status category [Info], [Action], [Time Sens], [Low Priority]. Use crisp, muddle-free sentences. If the email has to be longer than five sentences, make sure the first provides the basic reason for writing. Avoid strange fonts and colours.

7. Stop Open-Ended Questions

It isn’t helpful to send four long paragraphs followed by “Thoughts?”. Even well-intended-but-open questions like “How can I help?” may not be that helpful. Email generosity requires simplifying easy-to-answer questions. “Can I help best by a) calling b) visiting or c) staying out of it?!”

8. Slash Surplus CC’s

CC’s are like mating bunnies. For every recipient you add, you are dramatically multiplying total response time. Not to be done lightly! When there are multiple recipients, please don’t default to ‘Reply All’. Maybe you only need to cc a couple of people on the original thread. Or none.

9. Tighten the Thread

Some emails depend for their meaning on context. Which means it’s usually right to include the thread being responded to. But it’s rare that a thread should extend to more than 3 emails. Before sending, cut what’s not relevant. Or consider making a phone call instead.

10. Disconnect

If we all agree to spend less time doing email, we’d all get less email. Consider blocking out time at work where you don’t go online. Or make a commitment to email-free weekends. Add an auto-responder in your off time that references this charter.


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