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Comments on January '04 Productivity Principles

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  • Comments on January '04 Productivity Principles

    First, let me say that this is another great newsletter by David. I couldn't agree more that everything needs to be where it needs to be. I've been telling my wife this for years, and it's finally starting to sink in.

    I also love the formulae for discovering the meaning of a particular object. I've added a next action to brainstorm how to apply this checklist.

    I see a discrepency, however, in the item in "David's Tips" and the article in "Food for Thought". In the tips section, he writes:
    When writing an message that can be delivered simply, write it all on the subject line and “sign” it with your name or initials at the end of the line, so the reader will know there’s no need to open the e-mail. E.g. “Got the airline info I needed from Bill – thanks. – DA”
    I think this is an aweful idea! According to David's own article, the Subject goes in the Subject box. The Body goes in the Message Body box. This new method may save time for the writer, but wastes the time of everyone that receives it. It may work for internal communication in a small orginazation where it can be easily communicated and understood that this format means that there is no need to open the email, but once the message goes external, however, where users aren't aware of this system, they are going to open the email and wonder why there is no body. Their time is wasted. I think that it would be just as short to have this:
    - Subject: airline info received
    - Message: I got it. (and include your automatic signature.)
    It's faster for the sender and doesn't require that the recipient learn a new way to work. ( Notice that every part of the message is in it's proper spot, where it belongs.)

    Also, the sender has no way of knowing how the recipient's email is configured, if the subject comment is too long, it may be truncated to view only the first 25 or so characters. In this case the recipient still has to open the email to read the subject line. No time or effort is saved.

    Our IT department at work is the worst for putting an entire email, sometimes several sentences in the subject line. This makes it incredibly difficult to read. They get even worse after replys or forwards. This may be part of the cause of my distaste for this practice.

    Well, this is my rant for the week. OK, it's my rant for the moment, there will probably be more this week. Others may or may not agree with me here. Feel free to flame away. As for me, I'll continue to try to use a brief but clear subject line and probably more words in the body than I really need to. Thanks for listening!

    I'm adding a poll to my comments to see if I stand alone on this one. I look forward to hearing others comments.


  • #2
    Whole email in subject line? No go

    This may be OK for a short message, but there will be problems due to line length on some backend mailers. Also this is one of the ways virus writers and hackers (bad type) overload the system to break security.

    Not a good thing in my eyes.


    • #3
      If you have only a short message to send, then why not?


      • #4
        Because I will miss your message

        Because the subject line is usually so meaningless, that no bothers to look at it. Especially when the type is so small.

        I looked at the empty post, then went to forum index. Realized maybe I should go back and look at the subject line.


        • #5
          OK OK I shouldn't have done that here since the type is very tiny. Being the wise ass I am, I couldn't resist. But if you deal with e-mail a lot and have any quick messages I'm sure people you regularly correspond with will get the hang of it after the first time or two (just my two cents).



          • #6
            As I am fairly itinerant and often access my webmail using clients' computers, I would prefer not to receive the message in the title - if someone is passing by and can see my screen, the message is not their business. I'm prepared to go the extra click to open the message when I'm ready.



            • #7
              I think this is a great way to handle email, but only if you send messages where the subject is the content to people who are aware of this practice.

              I worked on a team that often sent requests for various bits of info between members. Message subjects were prefixed by <EOM> to indicate the end of the message.

              Instead of having to add all the extra bulk to your email such as greeting and signatures we would jot the request into the subject line e.g. Need copy of Tracking Item #13.


              • #8
                I like it - provided the recipient understands the practice. I do it often at work, and receive many emails written the same way.

                And while I agree that sometimes subject lines are meaningless, I don't think they always are - particularly in email messages with a purpose (as opposed to those where you're just chatting with a friend). Personally, I try to make mine appropriate to the message I'm sending.


                • #9
                  Be flexible!

                  I am sending the subject only messages often. I have never heard about any difficulty of reading them. I think this discussion is rather waste of time. Any inteligent being is able to read subject line so why should I write more than needed.


                  • #10
                    Whole email in subject line? No go

                    I believe the small benefit of saving time by condensing a message in the subject line is more than offset by the risk of the receiver misintrepeting the message causing perhaps additional e-mails. As a form of communication, e-mail is a poor second to face to face or telephone communication. All too often, people do not spend enough time composing their e-mail messages which can trigger many negative outcomes.

                    My vote is to compose a message to avoid the temptation of being too consice with a subject line e-mail.

                    Better yet, pick up the phone or meet someone to convey your comments when appropriate. E-mail is a great way to distribute information but it is a poor way to communicate in certain situations.


                    • #11
                      I like the idea of a detailed RE: line. It captures the attention of my reader among sometimes 10's of emails. When I combine a detailed line with sending the email "high priority" it really gets the attention of the receiver. Sometimes this is critical.

                      This is particularly useful when my reader is employing a Blackberry. He/She can see the purpose of the note with one quick glance at their screen.

                      I have been using this technique for a couple of years and it gets great results. I have never abused it nor have I tried to communicate a complex thought this way. The telephone still works best for these types of communications.

                      One must be discreet in this use of email or one could fall the way of the boy who cried wolf.



                      • #12
                        The recipient should define the subject!

                        I think that it should be left as is, because it is the norm. What I have intended to do, but have not done yet, is to change the subject to my own summary of the email. That would work because it would be your own norm. Has anybody done this, and would you comment on it?

                        Also, what about the first time variates from the norm? What about the angst that there might be something in the body?




                        • #13
                          I think perhaps Mr. Allen is recommending a use of email as a sort of instant messaging or text messaging tool... might be good to explore the productivity of employing an actual text messaging or instant messaging service for one's comminications. :P


                          • #14
                            I use Outlook at work with the preview window -so it really doesn't matter. Usually if someone does what he's suggesting it throws me off because I see a blank window and go looking for the subject in the in-box window.

                            a variation of this (one of my pet peeves) is when someone treats the subject line as the first line of the actual message and start s typing Hi Paul blah blah blah and then tabs down when they run out of room on the subject line

                            then you have to fully open the stupid thing just to read the subject line.