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How to Convert E-Mail Doom to E-Mail Done

Updated: Aug 22, 2021

Email: Early on it was great, communicate with all these people at once. Then we were copied on emails unrelated to us. Then we subscribed to newsletters and sales alerts, and then Facebook notices came, and pretty soon email became an untamable monster. Enter Beth Gibson Lilja. She has tamed all facets of email, and today you will find out how.

Email as a Reputation Maker or Breaker

Unfortunately, it is far easier to share a piece of our mind with a nasty neighbor or fanatical “friend” by email than in person. The results can be devastating. So: Never say anything by email you would not say in person. Do not disparage or deride—what good does it do to anger another? Retaliation is quick: Remember that forward button? Enough said. Remember the old adage when emailing: “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.”

Short and Sweet and Related

Remember, everybody’s inboxes are as full as yours. Everybody lacks time to read it all. To ensure YOUR emails are read and responded to:

  1. Be Brief. Be Concise. Be Clear. Be Done. Include only essential information. Attach a document if more background is needed.

  2. If making several DIRECTLY RELATED points, number them, for lightning-fast reading—and responding. Readers can respond to your numbered points. You receive organized responses.

  3. DON’T include unrelated issues in that email. Send one issue per email. That simplifies finding an email because your subject line will match the topic. Send a new email for an unrelated issue. Also, do not introduce a new topic when responding to an email.

Short Recipient Lists and a No-No

  1. Keep your recipient list short. No more copying half the people on the planet. (Do you want to risk responses from all those people?)

  2. Avoid “Reply All.” Beth once accidentally received an email from a “reply all” sent by another board member. The email was all about Beth’s “misgivings.” Clearly Beth was not the intended recipient. Beth notified the sender—and the rest of the board—about the email, along with her resignation. Needless-to-say, eventually the sender left the board and Beth was asked to return.

Subject Lines

Keep them clear and concise with a subject line laser-focused on the topic. Cute is fun—until you have to wade through a raft of emails to find the right one because the subject line was unclear. No longer fun.

Email Logistics

Once you receive an email, what do you do? Read quickly and delete? That can be a disaster. Will you really remember that email’s content and your response? Likely not. So, here’s Beth’s system that ensures you will benefit from your emails.

Daily Digital Delete

Plan on 15 minutes daily to delete unnecessary files, pictures AND emails. (This also ensures no email falls through the cracks.)


  1. Prepare email folders for each client. Make folder topics narrow enough to easily spot the folder with the right email, but not so narrow that your excessive folders overwhelm. Plan to add folders as needed.

  2. After you have read an email requiring action, keep it in your in box until you have acted on it, or added it to your calendar or task list. Then transfer it to the appropriate folder. (Beth swears by Microsoft Office 365 Tasks.)

  3. Delete unnecessary folders. Review folders every four-six weeks. Consider re-vamping folders an ongoing task. What can be deleted? What should be moved elsewhere? Whoops? What did I not add to my task list and is due shortly?! (Consider that one client insurance.)

  4. Do not mix business with pleasure. Keep your work folders separate from personal. Major time-saver!

Beth learned about folder organization and maintenance the hard way: “I had a vendor issue with too many topics in an email. I needed info and had to spend waaaay too much time looking through emails because there were too many in a folder. Be detailed with folders so you know exactly where to look.”

As Beth says, “Let’s face it. We are bombarded with emails. Make it easy for readers—which, in turn, will make it easy for you.”


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