Email is more than just your inbox. With a little care in how you send email, you can set yourself up for easier access to conversations and important coordination.
Put Tags in Subject Lines
Organize conversations by tagging subject lines. Tag a subject by putting a word in the subject line that serves as the tag. I like to put the tag as a hashtag at the end of the subject line. Of course, you need to determine a convention for tagging the subject lines.
You can tag subject lines by the project you're working on. In Europa’s case, she can tag the photographer’s stream of emails with #photographer at the end of each subject line. She tags the florist conversations with #flowers in the subject lines. Then, she can just search her inbox for #photographer to get all photographer-related messages. You can also tag based on the actions that need to be taken. For example, if the table layout needs to be determined, that project involves the photographer, the florist, and the architect. You can tag those messages with #layout. Then when you or any project members need to review what’s happening with the table layout, it’s just a simple search for #layout.
We need new email best practices, and we need them now. Fortunately, it’s now.
Finally, your workgroup can design tags that you agree to use between yourselves. These might correspond to certain types of issues, negotiations under way or whatever. This depends on what kind of work you do.
Europa is working on the wedding, where she’s agreed on certain tags with all the vendors. But never content to monotask, she’s also working on staffing a secret attempt to expand the Easter Bloc into Europe. After a few emails were mistakenly sent to the florist about heavy anti-aircraft artillery, Europa realized she needed to separate things out a little. She had all the folks from the wedding tag their emails with #Wedding, and her, er, contacts… in the Bloc tag theirs with #goEurope.
Interestingly, Intern MG is spending his next semester in Amsterdam. I’m sure there’s no connection, right?
Reply to the Same Email Thread
Some people lose email. I’m sure you would never do that, but some people do. You need to remind them of a conversation tactfully.
Do this by replying to the same email thread. That will bump the conversation to the top of their inbox in most email programs. In some email programs, you can reply to the last message you received OR sent in a thread, and it will send your response to anyone else in the thread. In other email programs, however, you have to respond to a message sent by the OTHER person. If you respond to a message you sent, it will just reply back to you. Which isn’t very useful. And if you have a program that does that, well, you’ll have to find the other person’s most recent message.