Kelly Poulson
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Coach. Career Navigator. Ass Kicker. Dog mom.

Attempting to conquer multiple challenges simultaneously — and doing so at the speed of light — rarely offers us the chance to think things through and approach them in the way that would be most helpful to us. This is especially true when we’re swamped at work. But email — which sometimes feels like the root of all evil — can actually alleviate some of your stress. Here's how:

1. I’ll be OOTO, and here’s how to handle stuff in my absence. Vacation brain. We all suffer from it from time to time. You’re trying to do everything humanly possible to get out the door in time to run home and pack and prep for your trip, but if you rush out without communicating to anyone, you’re not only hurting them, you’re also hurting you.

Be clear with your clients, colleagues and anyone else who needs to be informed that you’ll be out, and for how long, and what they can do to move things forward in your absence. The last thing you need is to return from your relaxing vacation to some snarky comments from a co-worker who wasn’t made aware and your time off threw a wrench in their project. Avoid it by being proactive. And an out of office message isn’t only helpful when you’re out of the office. Scope out what one CEO does here to protect precious work time from email overload.

2. Follow up. It’s not uncommon that we have an important meeting, take notes, and say, “I’ll follow up via email” ...and never do so. It hurts our credibility. So do it while it’s fresh in your mind. It doesn’t need to be fancy. Bullet points will suffice for the most part, unless, of course, you’re a manager and it was a summary of a tough employee conversation or something along those lines. In one of those scenarios, you want to be very thorough, and if you can have HR double check a draft, go for it.

Follow up emails deliver on what you promise, can help identify any lack of clarity coming out of the meeting, and then serve as a helpful reminder on next steps when needed.

3. You better RECOGNIZE. (AKA send meaningful thank yous.) Are you sending them? Not only does it feel good for that person who receives it, it feels good to you. I love either starting each morning with one or ending my week with a bunch. Just a quick note will suffice, to say, "hey, I noticed that you crushed it in that meeting, and that makes a difference. Keep up the amazing work."

This type of feedback reinforces good behaviors within your team and organization, along with providing the good feels. Interestingly enough, this practice will also help you to be a more positive person. The more you look for good things to thank folks for, the more good things you’ll notice around you. Win/win.

We don’t need to be at the mercy of our emails, even if it feels like we are more often than not. Choose to use this tool (yes, it is a tool) to help you and make your work experience better instead of reacting to it and allowing it to take charge. It will make a positive impact on your life, leaving you freer to make a positive impact on the lives of those around you!

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Kelly is a human resources pro and coach who helps people find and achieve what they want career-wise and beyond. Coaching, training, recruiting – if you name it in the world of HR, she's done it in a variety of industries. Her advice has been featured on The Muse, Career Contessa, Levo, Workology, among others. Learn more by scoping her out at www.kellypoulson.com.