A client asked me when it was appropriate to use bcc on emails.
I should preface my response by pointing out that I am generally in favor of transparency. I find their to be something devious about the blind cc. It suggests a lack of trust.
So the obvious (to me) reasons someone would choose to bcc are
- To cover their behind.
- To show off.
- As a form of gossip.
I’m sure there are other reasons I can’t think of. But none of these seem like positive drivers to me.
There is a “Wall Street Journal Test” in business. It goes like this. Before you do something, ask yourself, “Would you be okay if the fact of your doing this was reported on the front page of the Wall Street Journal?” If the answer is no, you probably shouldn’t do it.
I would use a similar test on the bcc. Ask yourself, “Would the person I am emailing be happy to discover I bcced others on this email?” If the answer is no, don’t bcc.
Or just never bcc. That’s one less decision you have to make in your already overcomplicated life.
Maybe you are a nice person. I hope you are. But you should be merciless . . .
. . . with your email.
It is easier than ever for people (those you care about as well as strangers) to steal your time. With little effort and almost no cost they can send you an email asking you to read or answer or save or forward or think or act.
Here are 5 rules I use to be merciless with my own email.
- Never take a survey.
- All articles and other types of reading (except those from my wife) get put in a folder to be read later (i.e., if and when I get to them but not during business hours).
- Use email rules to send junk email to junk folder and create a new rule anytime a new junk sender gets through.
- Copy and paste email info into calendar appointments, contact files, task lists, or Word documents that can be filed so that you can quickly dispose of the email.
- Keep a Someday folder for emails with interesting ideas you might want to get back to someday. (Even though you probably won’t. That’s okay. Putting them in the folder will help you feel better about getting the email out of your way.)
* READER QUESTION – How many emails do you have in your inbox?
In 2009 I created a low budget campaign to get my book, Be the Hero, onto the bestseller lists. And it worked. Wall Street Journal Business Bestseller. #19 in all books on Amazon.
The question is – why did it work?
The answer is – the personal appeal.
Marketers have fallen in love with email as a cheap way to reach the masses. Send out a million emails. It costs virtually nothing. Some of the recipients will act. A small percentage of 1,000,000 is still a big number.
Problems occur when people with only a few people to email fall into the same trap. I received a donation request with the opening line, “Hi Everyone.” This immediately made a few things very clear.
- I’m not special. I’m one of the masses.
- The sender expects no specific reply from me.
- My action or inaction will go unnoticed.
If you have contact info for a million people, by all means, send out mass emails. However, when you need action from a high percentage of your contact list, it requires a personal appeal.
- A blast email asking people to buy Girl Scout cookies from my daughter would get almost no response. A phone call from her is irresistible. 100% close rate.
- A blast email from me asking people to participate in the best seller campaign would have had almost no effect. My approach took more time. I called a couple hundred people to ask them to take part. The result was a national bestseller.
You may not have time for a personal appeal in everything you do. You’ll have to choose. But if you want people to act, show them how much you care in how you reach out to them. Their response will reflect your approach.
In the last 20 years vacations have become stressful in a way they never were before due to email. I’m not talking about the people who bring their Blackberries with them and spend their whole vacations answering emails, where really they’re still working, only the scenery has changed. I’m talking about people who really do take vacation. The ones who leave the email behind. Who disconnect completely until they return to work.
This is the way vacation is meant to be. This is the way to recharge. Unfortunately, most people receive dozens or even a hundred or more emails every day. So all during our recharge time the emails are piling up.
This leads to an incredibly stressful return to the office.
It used to be that people would come back from vacation and have to return a handful of phone calls. Easy. Social. Not very stressful.
Now we have to work through the 500 emails. Type till our fingers are numb. Stress over trying to get unburied from the work that piled up while we were on vacation all while being deluged by the demands of being back in the office.
Here’s my solution. I think every manager should institute a bookend policy for all employee vacations. Here’s how it would work.
The day before vacation is considered an “out of office” day. You don’t have to actually physically be out of the office. But you aren’t allowed to answer calls or attend meetings. Your email and phone messages are already set to vacation. Your job on that day is simply to clear your plate of loose ends. If you don’t have any loose ends, then you can work on anything new and creative that interests you.
The day after your vacation is also an “out of office” day. Still no meetings. Your primary job is to get as many emails out of your inbox as possible that day.
This would make people happier with their vacations. It would also make them more effective in their work before and after vacations. They’d be more satisfied with and committed to their jobs.
Win-win-win. Let me know if you are a manager and decide to adopt this with your group.
I received the following email:
I have no choices right now. I hate my job. I am overloaded. There are fewer people doing the same amount of work and no one is getting any bonus or any appreciation. I can’t risk leaving my job or showing dissatisfaction. How am I supposed to handle the rule-changes that have happened in the last two years and show no signs of letting up?
There is no simple answer, but there are two factors that can make the situation easier. These factors are perspective and choice.
If your expectations of what work should be like were forged during a booming economy, it is time to revise them. Sadly, one of the keys to happiness is indeed – low expectations.
You have a lousy job, but you have a job. You aren’t getting a bonus, but you have a salary. Your home may be losing value on paper, but you have a home. Be thankful.
Gratitude gives you energy to feel better about yourself and perform more effectively in your work and your relationships. Seeking out those aspects of life (and work) that you can be thankful for is more than just a feel good triviality. Focusing on gratitude on a daily basis has been shown to lead to better sleep and physical health and higher goal achievement.
We need this in tough times more than ever.
[Tomorrow I will address choice.]
My client told me she likes her inbox to contain around 100 emails. She begins to feel overwhelmed when it reaches 200 or more.
I guess we all have numbers that feel comfortable to us. I feel comfort at 1-10. Overwhelmed at 11+. An empty inbox feels AWESOME.
This is important because your inbox represents what you check, look at, think about, occupy your time and mental focus with. It is like a second To Do List but without due dates attached to anything. It’s all just one big jumbled mess of stuff to do.
Every time you peruse your inbox, on some level you have to mentally process everything you see in it. That sets your brain to worrying, thinking, strategizing, deciding, and fretting over all the stuff it sees (and the stuff it couldn’t see because you scrolled past too fast).
David Allen writes about this in Getting Things Done. His approach is brilliant. Essentially, the idea is to put things where and when you’ll need them.
- An email about a meeting? Attach it to the meeting appointment in your calendar.
- An email that needs to be taken care of next Wednesday? Create a task with Wednesday as a due date and attache the email to the task.
- An email that isn’t urgent but needs to be taken care of sometime soon? Create a Monday folder that you check every Monday and gets things out of your inbox for the rest of the week.
- An email that needs a response that will take less than 2 minutes to complete? Do it now. Don’t wait. Don’t ever put off anything that takes less than 2 minutes.
When you clear your inbox you don’t just tidy up a space on your computer. You clear mental space. You create an atmosphere that enables greater focus from you on what’s really important.
It isn’t a myth. The empty inbox really does exist. Have you ever seen it?
On Tuesday I shared an email exchange that went viral and asked you which of the emailers you admire. Yesterday I shared my views on the Professor. Today the kid is up, and in my opinion he does deserve admiration for his actions.
I agree with the professor that the student’s approach to sampling classes was misguided. It was rude and unprofessional. (Though I also think it shows some level of creativity and willingness to experiment outside the established norms.) I agree with some of the commentary I’ve received that the youth of today need to learn manners and discipline.
And so, insofar as the kid’s email attempts to justify his actions as appropriate, I think he needs to learn otherwise. Had he okayed his strategy with the professor ahead of time, fine. If he’d had a flat tire or a death in the family or a subway car ride that stopped underground due to a power failure, those are excusable reasons for showing up late. Sampling classes does not rate as a worthy excuse.
However, when I read the kid’s email I don’t hear the snotty tone of an impudent youth trying to defend his actions. I hear a respectful voice offering reasonable feedback to someone in a position of power. Now, as I’ve written before, I do think this kind of message should be delivered live instead of in written form. However, I think the essence of the email – speaking truth to power – is laudable.
He didn’t attack the professor. He didn’t show undue malice or anger. He expressed the impact the professor’s actions had on him and stated his case calmly and openly.
I can easily teach someone to show up on time. I can explain to this kid why his actions were inappropriate in professional and academic settings. I can convey how his actions were personally unfair to the professors.
I cannot nearly as easily teach someone to speak their minds to authority and to do it in a respectful way.