Illustrator: Ashley Siebels
The never-ending barrage of emails we receive at work can get old. Some people have developed hacks to make said barrage a little less noisome, such as saving go-to responses as virtual signatures instead of rewriting the same message time after time. But even just reading all the junk that piles up into our inboxes can take hours out of our day, and the constant influx of messages can feel like a full-time job in and of itself.
That’s why Land O’Lakes CEO Beth Ford has come up with some advice for employees who have something to say. And it may be a rule we should all incorporate in our offices.
“I work a lot through email and text. I make it my goal to review what has come in and separate those that I can answer,” Ford told Fast Company. “I also always say to my team: ‘Please don’t write me a novel, I won’t read it.’ I just don’t have the time. Instead, write in the subject line what it is that this is about.
“And tell me up front — is a decision needed, or do you need me to look at something, or is it a ‘When you have time, take a look at this?’ — so I can prioritize effectively and be responsive when I need to be.”
When hundreds of workers are vying for attention at the same time, this kind of prioritization is key — especially for someone like Ford, who’s perusing emails as soon as she wakes up at 5 a.m. But even for those of us who don’t receive the same number of messages as a CEO might, it would be nice to stop receiving books in our inboxes every time the office supplies get restocked.
So perhaps we at least make this a rule for ourselves — we won’t send any more long-winded emails that could be communicated in a sentence, and we’ll be clearer about our deadlines for a response. At least that way, we can lead by example and know that we’re making our coworkers’ lives easier — even if Karen still sends us her own version of “Ulysses” about staplers every month.