My #1 New Year’s resolution: adopt the email charter

by Jini Stolk

This year I’m going to get serious about cutting down on unnecessary email. I don’t want to get snippy with my friends and colleagues, but the number of messages I receive has been getting me down and distracting me from getting things done.

Here are some absolutely sensible solutions, which I for one am going to adopt. The email charter (an “idea worth spreading” with its own website, which I heard about from a frustrated colleague at the CSI)  proposes that we respect ourselves and our correspondents by, among other things, agreeing that short messages are not rude; starting every email with a subject line that clearly labels the topic; focusing on only one topic per email; and cutting down on cc’s (a recent topic of brisk discussion on one of my projects).

Among the best timesavers I’ve heard about: if your message can be expressed in one phrase, put it in the subject line followed, if you like, by EOM (for End of Message.) This is an oldie but goodie from Brad Isaac at Lifehacker blog, which saves your readers from having to open the message and forces you to be concise. Also, of special importance to me, “You can easily paste EOM subject lines. For example “Confirming meeting in Studio A to discuss the marketing plan, 3 pm on Jan 21” contains all the essential information and can be cut and pasted into calendars, task lists, and notes as is.

And how about ending a note with “No need to respond” (or NNTR.) This seems to me like a wonderful act of generosity and respect. “Great”, “looking forward to it”, “see you then”, “cool”, “thanks” – we’ve all sent this type of message, and we all know that its only purpose is to let your correspondent know that you’ve received their previous note. Each time I send a response like this, I hesitate. I know I’m adding nothing of importance, but it somehow feels like a necessary social step. But perhaps it is really the opposite – a social imposition.

Do I even have to mention Reply Alls? Hardly ever necessary, rarely appreciated – and they carry the danger of being embarrassing.

So if my messages get shorter and seem sort of brusque, it’s not because I don’t like you. In fact, I like you a lot. I respect your time, know how busy you are, and prefer to save time for both of us so we might actually be able to get together and talk – in person.

Message: Adopt the email charter. EOM, NNTR.


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