TIME Mental Health/Psychology

5 Email Habits of Very Productive People

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Here's how to practice good email hygiene

Ping! Check email. Ping. Check email again. Ping. Check. Ping. Check. Ping. Check.

If you’re like most people who sit in front of a computer all day, this probably sounds like you: When you’re not currently replying to an email, you’re looking to see if you have any new ones. Then when something new does come in, you read it, debate how to respond, then deem it too time-consuming for the moment. “I’ll get to that later,” you think. And if there’s nothing new, you’re nervously wondering why. “Is it because my inbox is full?!” So you keep checking back every 15 seconds until something pops up—in the meantime deleting all the junk mail that has since clogged your inbox.

HEALTH.COM: 12 Reasons to Stop Multitasking Now!

But a life tethered to your email means those other projects you want and need to do—be they big reports or personal tasks—can get postponed by days, weeks, or months. Not to mention, a new Canadian study found hyperchecking your email can make you (surprise!) more stressed. So we asked five people who have a barrage of emails to answer to tell us how they tame their inbox.

Read on for their strategies to deal with the deep, dark email crevasse.

Set designated “reply times”

“I do many quick checks of email throughout the day to see if there’s something high priority and urgent that has come in, but I only allocate two times a day to fully deal with the email that has accumulated. By batching all of the heavy duty email processing into bigger chunks, I can be much more efficient and reduce the feeling of constantly switching tasks.”

—Jacob Bank, computer scientist and co-founder and CEO of the Timeful calendar app

HEALTH.COM: 12 Unexpected Things That Mess With Your Memory

Pick and choose what’s key

“I respond to priorities as soon as possible, and keep correspondence clear and super positive. Knowing that I’ll still never get through all the emails, I prioritize people who are asking for help and opportunities that support my intention. I’m also not afraid to use the “!” for high priorities or dramatic effect.”

—Tara Stiles, yoga instructor, author of the Make Your Own Rules Diet ($25, amazon.com), and W Hotels’ fitness partner

Email only the quick things

“Email works for quick day-to-day correspondence, but when I have something important to discuss or decisions to be made, I pick up the phone. It is always better to hear the person on the other end—the inflection in their voice. Emails can often be misunderstood.”

Bobbi Brown, makeup artist and Health‘s contributing beauty and lifestyle editor

HEALTH.COM: 13 Ways to Beat Stress in 15 Minutes or Less

Sort all your stuff

“I have found that treating my online mail just like post office mail works wonders. I created folders: Everything from mom folder, workout class folder, celebrity clientele folder, house folder, summer cottage folder, medical folder, kid folders, etc. With emails organized into categories, I can easily do my three steps…find, take action, or delete. You’ll also need to unsubscribe from junk. The volume of junk email is tremendous and spending time deleting each one is taking precious time away from you. Finally, prioritize emails that need attention that particular day. I hit reply and drag them to the corner of my desktop if I can’t get to them at that moment, otherwise I use my other rule, don’t leave an email request—answer asap.”

—Kathy Kaehler, celebrity trainer, author, and founder of Sunday Set-Up, a healthy eating club

Respond—don’t mull

“I try to respond to emails as soon as I see them because otherwise they can get pushed further down the inbox and may be ignored. I recommend you be responsive but not superfluous. By responding quickly and writing short, non-flowery emails, you can create an image of efficiency and attentiveness. Even short words like “Thanks” or “Got it” will help you build a culture of trust and signal that you are on top of your inbox.”

—Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, assistant professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine, Health’s contributing medical editor, and cofounder of Tula Skincare

HEALTH.COM: 10 Nervous Habits That Hurt Your Health

This article originally appeared on Health.com

TIME Careers

Get Motivated With 2014’s Inspiring, Unforgettable Quotes

2014 has been inspired, from Maya Angelou to Robin Williams to Sheryl Sandberg

With the year coming to a close, there’s no better time to look back at the words that moved us, made us laugh and inspired us to do more. From the encouragement of big name graduation speakers, to sound TED Talk advice and remembering those who are no longer with us, here are 11 examples of words of wisdom from the pages of Entrepreneur.

  • “You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.” Maya Angelou, Author and Activist


    Read more:
    10 Inspirational Quotes From Literary Legend Maya Angelou

  • “And some of you – and now I’m talking to anyone who has been dumped – have not gotten the job you really wanted or have received those horrible rejection letters from grad school. You know the disappointment of losing or not getting something you badly want. When that happens, show what you are made of.” – Jill Abramson, Journalist


    Read more:
    Ex-NYT Editor Jill Abramson on Resilience

  • “You’re only given one little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” - Robin Williams, Actor and Comedian


    Read more:
    10 Inspirational Robin Williams Quotes

  • “Getting from point A to point Z can be daunting unless you remember that you don’t have to get from A to Z. You just have to get from A to B. Breaking big dreams into small steps is the way to move forward.” – Sheryl Sandberg, Author, Activist, COO of Facebook


    Read more:
    Sheryl Sandberg’s Advice to Grads: Banish Self-Doubt, Dream Bigger and Lean In, Always

  • “Don’t be afraid to make a mistake, because you know what you can do if you grab the wrong one? Drop it and pick up another one!” – Steve Ballmer, Former Microsoft CEO and current owner of the LA Clippers


    Read more:
    3 Life Lessons From Steve Ballmer’s Rousing Graduation Speech

  • “I will always be safe from the random hurricanes of outcome as long as I never forget where I rightfully live.” – Elizabeth Gilbert, Writer


    Read more:

  • “If you aren’t making a difference in other people’s lives, you shouldn’t be in business — it’s that simple. Companies have a responsibility to make a difference in the world: They owe this to their community, their staff, their customers, everyone. The amazing part is that doing good is also good for business — what are you waiting for?” – Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group

    Read more: Richard Branson’s Top 10 Tips for Succeeding at Business

  • “Let’s keep it real: most of us, especially most of us entrepreneurs, get caught up in what we perceive to be the highs and lows of our professional lives. We pop champagne, buy fancy toys and celebrate when it seems like one of our ideas has “won,” but we become dark and depressed when it seems like an idea has “lost” or “failed.” The truth is that neither reaction is sustainable. Being an entrepreneur or a business person is a journey that will have inevitable highs and lows, but will never actually end.” – Russell Simmons, fashion and lifestyle entrepreneur and founder of Def Jam Recordings

    Read more: Russell Simmons: 3 Simple Ways Meditation Will Make You a Better Entrepreneur

  • So I guess what I’m saying is you gotta ask yourself, why are you playing the game?– Matthew McConaughey, Actor


    Read more: Low on Drive? Watch Matthew McConaughey Deliver This Rousing Ode to Purpose

  • “Never be afraid to laugh at yourself, after all, you could be missing out on the joke of the century.” – Joan Rivers, Comedian


    Read more:
    Honoring Joan Rivers: 12 of the Trailblazing Comedian’s Wisest Quotes

  • “Being open and observant of people and the world around you is really important. People have the same desires and needs online as they do offline. The way that people are stays constant. You can change the format, make it easier for them to communicate or use photos instead of words but human necessities never change.” – Caterina Fake, tech entrepreneur, founder of Flickr and Findery.

    Related: Lewis Howes On Being Confident: ‘Own Who You Are’

    This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com

TIME advice

How to Use the Holidays to Advance Your Career

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Get clear on what you have to offer

Often during the holidays we have some extra time on our hands. Without work, college, or other distractions, we can take the time to catch up on our year and look ahead to next year.

For me, the most important goals for the coming year are always career oriented. I find when I’m happy with my career, personal development, and overall professional growth, everything else seems to come into place. I see more friends, have more time to exercise and focus on hobbies, and am just happier.

Here’s how everyone can make the most of this holiday season to get ready for our careers in 2015:

1. Get serious about LinkedIn.

LinkedIn, the worlds largest professional network. It’s very easy to be intimidated by this network if you aren’t already using it, but you shouldn’t be intimidated and you should be using it.

I know many people, including myself, who get multiple opportunities a month from LinkedIn. Whether they’re new job openings, freelance contracts, or connecting with other professionals, having a full and complete LinkedIn profile does wonders for your personal brand and can do wonders for you career, too.

When you sit down with your LinkedIn profile start by asking yourself these questions:

  • What’s my biggest career accomplishment to date and how am I highlighting it?
  • What do I like about other people’s profiles and how can I bring those qualities to my own profile?
  • What is my goal with my LinkedIn profile? For potential employers to find me, to bring in new client leads or to keep up with my professional network?

Once you answer those questions be sure to take action and include your biggest accomplishment, include elements you like about other people’s profiles and anything else you think can help your profile stand out. Having an amazing LinkedIn profile is easier than it seems.

2. Write down your ideal career situation.

A lot of us have ideas of what our dream job would be like, who our dream company is, and what it would be like to be there. But have you ever really written it down?

Take a minute to write down your ideal career situation and be very specific. Where are you working, what are you doing, what does an everyday look like, and why does this job make you happy?

Writing it down is different from just thinking about it because it forces you to get really clear on what you want. Once you have your perfect situation written down, you will start to see little steps that you can take in 2015 to slowly, but surely, get there.

(MORE: How to Rock the Job Search During the Holidays)

3. Get clear on what you have to offer.

Have you ever made a big list of all of your skills, knowledge, and other things that you bring to the table when you work somewhere?

Getting clear on this will help you advance your career in many different ways. It helps you figure out which job posting are really for you, it helps you know what you can offer clients, and the skills question always comes up in interviews.

Make sure you have this list on hand when you’re doing career-related things. It keeps you on your path of working on the skills you are best at.

4. Set goals for 2015.

Finally over the new year, I love to set goals and resolutions. Napoleon Hill said, ”A goal is a dream with a deadline.”

Don’t be afraid to give yourself a deadline for these goals. They give you something to work toward. Make sure your goals follow the SMART plan:

  • Specific: Instead of ‘get a job’ try ‘land an entry level position with company in X industry.’
  • Measurable: Make sure you can determine whether or not you’ve accomplished the goal.
  • Actionable: Can you take small steps to get to this goal?
  • Realistic: Taking into account your current situation, how likely is it you will achieve this? Big dreams are amazing–but it takes small accomplishments to get there.
  • Timely: Set a deadline–don’t be scared of the timeframe, let it motivate you.

I’m all for lofty goals that blow your mind when you accomplish them. I would say just start with the really small steps to get there.

(MORE: Merry Stress-mess: How to Not Go Crazy During the Holidays)

This article originally appeared on Levo.com.

TIME Careers & Workplace

How to Build a Million-Dollar Business in 1 Year (Yes, Really)

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You have to think about one thing—and one thing only—from the start

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.

Some people go their entire lives without earning a million dollars, so it sounds crazy that some businesses might be able to achieve this milestone within their first year. But it is possible. Plenty of businesses have achieved this goal, and you can too!

Pay attention to the following tips and use them to help power up your revenue growth:

1. Find a growing market

One of the easiest ways to build a million-dollar company in such a short period of time is to find a growing trend and ride it to the top. Take the example of Micah Adler, CEO of mobile app developer Fiksu, which grew from less than $1 million to $100 million in just three and a half years — with only $17.6 million in venture capital — following its 2010 launch.

Related: Looking for Stable Business Ideas? Here Are 12 Types of Companies With Healthy Cash Flow.

Certainly, Adler’s success comes in part from building great products, but it also comes from his timing. In 2012, just two years after Fiksu’s launch, mobile-app development represented $19 billion in revenue and was experiencing annual growth of more than 60 percent a year. Finding a growing market of your own like this can put you on the fast track to massive revenue growth.

2. Think monetization from the start

It seems strange to think about objectively, but some startups start without any obvious monetization strategies. Twitter is one example of this phenomenon, but there are countless other companies out there building up their free user bases, hoping that inspiration — and, consequently, financial stability — will strike along the way.

If you want to grow a million-dollar company in your first year, you can’t afford to think that way!

Most profitable companies operate from one of two models: either they sell a lot of inexpensive products to a lot of people or they sell a few big-ticket items to a more limited buyer list. Neither model is easier or inherently better than the other. What’s more important than choosing is having a defined plan for monetization. Knowing how you’ll make money from the start will prevent wasted time spent hoping that something profitable will come together for you.

3. Be the best

There are plenty of mediocre products out there, but the odds are good that these companies aren’t making a million dollars or more during their first years. If you want to hit these big potential profits, you’ve got to bring something to the table that wows customers and generates buzz within your marketplace.

Related: Field a Team of ‘A’ Players at Your Startup

How can you tell if you’ve got a “best in breed” product? Look to your current customers. If you aren’t getting rave reviews online or positive comments sent to your inbox, chances are your clients aren’t as ecstatic about your product as they need to be to hit your target sales. Ask your existing customers what you can do to make your product better and then put their recommendations into place. They’ll appreciate your efforts and will go on to refer further sales to you in the future.

4. Hire all-stars

Hitting $1 million in revenue during your first year is no small feat, and you certainly aren’t going to achieve this goal with a team of underperformers. Yes, hiring these people will be cheaper and easier, but you’ll pay for this convenience when your end-of-the-year sales numbers come up short.

Instead, you need to hire all-stars, and the fastest way to do this is to ask around for referrals. Pay particular attention to the sales hires you make, as these key employees stand to make the biggest difference in your business’s bottom line. Get them on the bus and then encourage them to do whatever is necessary to close deals (pro tip: a good series of incentives won’t hurt!).

5. Consume data

Finally, if you want to shoot for the revenue moon, you need to be absolutely militant about gathering data and acting on it. When I approach a new marketing project, I prefer to work in short sprints of a few weeks or less where we’ll try something new, check the statistics to see how the changes impacted revenue and then either commit the changes or try a new test.

Do the same with your growing company. You have a veritable gold mine of information just hanging out in your Google Analytics account, so put it to good use by identifying your company’s key performance indicators (KPIs) and running tests designed to push these metrics even higher. If you aren’t able to carry out these tests on your own, bring on a rock-star analyst who can help you make sense of your numbers. When every penny counts towards reaching your $1-million-a-year goal, you’ll find these employees to be worth their weight in gold.

Growing a company to $1 million in revenue in your first year isn’t easy, but it is possible. Stick to the tips above and be ruthless about profitability — even if you don’t hit this particular goal, you’ll earn the strongest sales results possible for your unique company.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Metrics for Business Leaders

MONEY working in retirement

This Is the Toughest Threat to Boomers’ Retirement Plans

Most employers say they support older workers. But boomers don't see it, and age discrimination cases are on the rise.

As the oldest boomers begin to turn 70 in just over a year, an important workplace battleground already has been well defined: how to accommodate aging but productive workers who show few signs of calling it quits.

Millions of older workers want to stay on the job well past 65 or 68. Some are woefully under saved or need to keep their health insurance and must work; others cling to the identity their job gives them or see work as a way to remain vibrant and engaged. At some level, almost all of them worry about being pushed out.

Those worries are rooted in anecdotal evidence of workers past 50 being downsized out of jobs, but also in hard statistics. Age discrimination claims have been on the rise since 1997, when 15,785 reports were filed. Last year, 21,396 claims were recorded. Not every lawsuit is valid. But official claims represent only a fraction of incidents where older workers get pushed out, lawyers say.

One in five workers between 45 and 74 say they have been turned down for a job because of age, AARP reports. About one in 10 say they were passed up for a promotion, laid off or denied access to career development because of their age. Even those not held back professionally because of age may experience something called microaggressions, which are brief and frequent indignities launched their direction. Terms like “geezer” and “gramps” in the context of a work function “affect older workers” and erode self-esteem, write researchers at the Sloan Center.

These are serious issues in the context of a workforce where many don’t ever plan to retire. Some 65% of boomers plan to work past age 65, according new research from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. Some 52% plan to keep working at least part-time after they retire. In a positive sign, 88% of employers say they support those who want to stay on the job past 65.

But talk is cheap, many boomers might say. In the Transamerica survey, just 73% of boomers said their employer supports working past 65. One way this skepticism seems justified: only 48% of employers say they have practices in place to enable older workers to shift from full-time to part-time work, and just 37% say they enable shifting to a new position that may be less stressful. Boomers say the numbers are even more dismal. Only 21% say their employer will enable them to shift to part-time work, and just 12% say their employer will facilitate a move to a position that is less stressful.

These findings seem at odds with employers’ general perceptions about how effective older workers are. According to the survey:

  • 87% believe their older workers are a valuable resource for training and mentoring
  • 86% believe their older workers are an important source of institutional knowledge
  • 82% believe their older workers bring more knowledge, wisdom, and life experience
  • Just 4% believe their older workers are less productive than their younger counterparts

The reality is that most of us will work longer. The Society of Actuaries recently updated its mortality tables and concluded that, for the first time, a newborn is expected to live past 90 and a 65-year-old today should make it to 86 (men) or 88 (women). The longevity revolution is changing everything about the way we approach retirement.

Employers need to embrace an older workforce by creating programs that let them phase into retirement while keeping some income and their healthcare, by offering better financial education and planning services, and by declaring an age-friendly atmosphere as part of their commitment to diversity.

For their part, employees must take steps to remain employable. Most are staying healthy (65%); many are focused on performing well (54%), and a good number are keeping job skills up to date (41%), Transamerica found. But painfully few are keeping up their professional network (16%), staying current on the job market (14%) or going back to school for retraining (5%). Both sides, it seems, could do better.

Read next: How Your Earnings Record Affects Your Social Security

TIME Careers

The Biggest Résumé Mistakes You Should Avoid

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Please don't go for the 'if you can't dazzle them with diamonds, baffle them with nonsense' approach

Answer by Heather Spruill on Quora.

Here are my main complaints:

Readability: Formatting that doesn’t help me read the content. If my eye doesn’t know where to go, either because you’ve crammed too much onto the page, or haven’t broken up your information into digestible sections, you’re making it hard for me. I have hundreds of resumes to review. If you’re throwing obstacles in my way before I even get to the part where I’m thinking about whether you’re a fit, you’re only hurting yourself. Use formatting to organize the data. Present a polished, readable product.

Organization: Content that is arranged in such a way that I have to work really hard to figure out whether you’re worth contacting. There are many ways to organize information about your experience – there’s a point where I’m going to want to see something chronological, and something that speaks to the relevant experience that qualifies you for the job. It’s fine—and often helpful if it’s thoughtfully done—to organize experience into relevant categories rather than listing individual responsibilities in a strictly chronological account of your life at work. Somewhere, however, you’ll need to list your prior employers, tenure with each, and jobs you had there. I need that part of the story. And I need to be able to easily differentiate your summary of skills from your work history. When you get too far afield with organization, and give me a non-linear, haphazard collection of facts, I begin to wonder if you’re a good fit before I even know what you can do.

Relevance: Content that seems arranged for some other kind of job than the one for which you’re applying. Your best bet is to hand me a document that demonstrates that you’re the most appropriate candidate for the position. If you give me an unedited data dump of everything you’ve ever done or thought, you’re leaving me to analyze you and do that work for you. I’m tired. Give me what I want, and spare me the details about your paper route, big projects that have no relevance to this position (or frame that information so its relevance is immediately apparent), and highlight the experience that makes you a good fit for my open position.

Substance: Content that’s all jargon with no indication of the scope or depth of your experience. In the interview, it’s going to become very clear that you either know what you’re talking about or you don’t. Please don’t go for the “if you can’t dazzle them with diamonds, baffle them with nonsense” approach. Instead, tell me what I need to know:

  • What did you work on?
  • How responsible were you for the design, execution, and outcome?
  • What was the scope of your responsibility?
  • How much technical skill did you have/need to do that job?
  • How much independent judgment did you exercise?
  • Did you progress to successively more responsible positions/assignments?
  • How well did that prepare you for the level of responsibility involved in the job to which you’re applying? Close match? Stretch? That’s what I’m asking.

When an entry-level applicant includes, “responsible for any and all aspects of…” on their resume, I assume that isn’t the case—they weren’t developing the policy, they didn’t have the authority to act independently…save me having to decipher, and be accurate. “Processed inbound customer requests” is not the same as “responsible for any and all aspects of customer service for the XX department.” Your boss determined the course, and you followed it—there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not the same thing.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What are the main issues with résumés?

MONEY Jobs

Here’s What To Expect From The Job Market in 2015

There should be good news for job seekers in 2015 as the US economy continues to rebound.

TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Ways Gmail’s New Inbox Will Make Your Email Life Infinitely Better

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You’ll love the “pin” feature

The Muse logo

This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

We all love to hate on email. For good reason: It’s time-consuming, dull, and requires constant attention. But while email isn’t going to disappear in the foreseeable future, your worst email woes might.

Last month, Google rolled out Inbox, a new email interface. It’s like Gmail’s younger, hipper sister—clean, sleek, and loaded with lots of productivity-boosting features designed to help make dealing with email, well, suck less.

In other words, if you currently use Google products at work, your professional life is about to be changed. Here are just a few ways Inbox has answers for your biggest complaints about email.

1. If You’re Constantly Forgetting About Important Emails

You’ll love the “pin” feature. Just hover over an email, tap the push-pin icon, and voilà—the message is put front and center in your inbox until you un-pin it. You can even turn on a function that will only display pinned emails.

Put it to Work

Your boss sends you extremely detailed instructions for a project. Instead of having to do a search for the message each and every time you work on the task, just pin the email to your inbox. You’ll have it open in your browser within two seconds.

2. If You Hate Wasting Time Opening Messages Just to See the Attachments

You’ll love the “preview” future. With regular email, attachments are indicated by a little paperclip. But Inbox takes this way, way further by actually showing you what the attachments are and allowing you to open them without opening the email. This includes documents, pictures, Excel spreadsheets, videos—you name it.

Put it to Work

You’ve been waiting for your client to send you a revised contract, and you finally see her name in your inbox. Instead of spending time opening her email, scrolling all the way to the bottom to see if she’s attached it, and then downloading it, you can quickly pull up the contract and get to work.

3. If You Hate How Cluttered Your Inbox Gets

You’ll love the “bundle” feature. Bundling automatically sorts your email into categories—kind of like Gmail’s primary, social, and promotions tabs, but much more sophisticated (and easy to use). The built-in categories include travel, purchases, finance, and updates, and you can also add your own. Emails of the same category will appear together in your inbox.

Put it to Work

You’re planning your vacation, and you’re being flooded with ticket confirmations, tour reservations, hotel bookings, and so on. Meanwhile, your mom keeps sending you old pictures she’s found, and your boss has emailed you multiple spreadsheets to review. Instead of having all of those emails appear jumbled together—a one-way ticket to distraction city—they each show up in separate little boxes, making it easy to deal with each task one at a time.

4. If You Hate Clearing Out Your Inbox

You’ll love the “sweep” feature. This allows you to archive whole bundles at once: Just click the checkmark above a bundle, and it’ll be swooped out of sight, saving you the trouble of manually going through and archiving individual messages.

And don’t worry—if you’ve pinned a message, it’ll stick around in your inbox.

Put it to Work

You’ve just gone through scads of LinkedIn and Google+ invitations, and now you want to de-clutter your inbox. You scroll down the social bundle and click sweep. The bundle vanishes!

5. If You Hate Having to Remember to Answer Emails

You’ll love the “snooze” feature. If you get an email at an inconvenient time, Inbox lets you schedule it to come back later. Just click the clock icon and pick a time (from an exact day and hour to “someday”). It will disappear from your inbox until then, so you won’t have to keep reminding yourself you still need to answer.

Put it to Work

At 8 AM, your colleague shoots you an email asking for the latest sales numbers, but you won’t have them until the afternoon. You snooze his email to 3 PM so you remember to get back to him once you can.

Loving the sound of Inbox? Send an email to inbox@google.com to request an invitation. I got mine within a week, so yours should arrive shortly. Let me know what you think—and if I missed any cool ways to use it!

More from the Muse:

TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Things You Seriously Need to Reconsider Emailing

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Your subject line is the caller ID of your email—it will determine whether it gets answered or ignored

The Muse logo

This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

Let’s be real. The fact that Gmail allows you to divide your inbox into five sub-folders can only mean one thing: Most emails we receive are total crap. And when you’re sending a note to a colleague, your boss, or a hiring manager, it’s likely landing somewhere between something critical and Viagra spam or BuzzFeed GIFs.

So, how do you make sure your message gets noticed and—more importantly—read? Put yourself in your recipient’s shoes, and make sure any email you write answers these five questions.

1. Why Should I Open This?

Your subject line is the caller ID of your email—it will determine whether it gets answered or ignored. Make it specific and direct so that your recipient knows exactly what to expect from the message. If you’ll need your co-worker to give you feedback by Tuesday, don’t bury a note in the last line. Title your email “Reply by Tuesday: notes from today’s meeting” instead of “Hey” (which is the email equivalent of hearing “we need to talk”).

If you’re applying for a job, use key words like the name of the position or your experience to stand out. Writing “Community Manager With 4 Years of Experience” is a short and sweet way to offer your credentials up front.

2. Who Are You?

If you’re writing to someone for the first time—for instance, a hiring manager or someone you heard speak at an event but did not meet—you’ll want to establish rapport as quickly as possible. For example, before I wrote a cold email to a company about open freelance positions, I learned that the founder and I both attended the same college. I put “Yale alum” in both my subject and the first sentence of my email; I got a response and scheduled an interview within 48 hours.

Use whatever common ground you can find—schools, mutual friends or interests, professional associations—to let recipients know that you are worth connecting with. Or if you work in a large company and you’re contacting an executive whom you’ve met before, a quick reminder of when and where you last connected will help jog her memory.

3. What Do You Need?

This is why you’re writing in the first place! Now’s the time for the big explanation, right? Not yet. Aim to be clear and compelling in one or two sentences. At work, think of your email as just a brief initial contact that can set up a live conversation by phone or in person if more explanation is necessary.

This is especially true for cold emails when the recipient isn’t anticipating your message. If you are writing to request a coffee meeting, be specific but leave room for intrigue. For instance, write “I would love to share what I’ve learned on content marketing as well as learn how I can contribute to your current projects.” Remember: Busy people don’t want to have their brain “picked,” they want to get smarter by exchanging ideas.

4. What’s in it for Me?

Think of your email as a transaction: What you want from your recipient should benefit her as much as it benefits you. On the job, we are all seeking approval from our colleagues, managers, and customers. How can what you’re requesting help your recipient accomplish this? Be explicit with phrases like, “I can be an asset to your team,” “this may help present your ideas more clearly,” or even “customer feedback shows that they are looking for solutions like these.”

5. Will You Appreciate It?

With so many impersonal emails arriving in our inboxes each day, make yours stand out by showing a little humanity. Whether you’re addressing a colleague or a cold contact, you are requesting that person’s time to follow up thoughtfully to your email. Show that you appreciate the effort by signing off with “thank you” or “sincerely” (seriously, “best” is way too confusing). A little etiquette will go a long way to getting the response you want.

Keep these questions on a Post-it note and check your messages against them before you send. Not only will you master the email craft, you’ll be a damn good communicator in any professional setting.

More from The Muse:

TIME Careers & Workplace

Should You Work With Family Members?

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How to answer one of the most difficult questions in business

startupcollective

This story was originally published on StartupCollective.

Question: Working with family members: yes or no, and why?

No: How You Get Along Personally and Professionally Might Be Different

“My wife has been my business partner at my startup for the past four years. I’ve been lucky enough to find a wonderful partner in her, both personally and professionally. However, I never advise working with family. It’s too risky. Getting along with a family member personally is no indication of how you work together professionally. Money and business can damage your relationship. It’s not worth it.” — Eric Bahn, Hustle Con Media

Yes: You Can Be Compeletely Honest With Each Other

“My twin brother is my partner in my oldest company, and it’s great because we can be honest with one another, and I trust him significantly more than I’ve trusted partners in the past. It also just so happens that our skill sets are completely opposite and complementary. If you can share a womb, you can share a business!” — Darrah Brustein, Network Under 40 / Finance Whiz Kids

Yes: They Are the Most Loyal

“We actually have 10 family members that work with us, and they are very loyal and always watch our backs. Although, I will say it is very important to define roles and boundaries with family immediately. They do tend to push the limits of what is acceptable if rules are not clearly defined.” — Laura Land, Accessory Export, LLC

Yes: It’s Less Expensive Than Using Consultants

“My immediate family members each work in the marketing, entertainment and retail industries, which is the complete opposite of my area of expertise (finance). They were able to give me constructive criticism when I ventured into their major areas of expertise, and their advice and help has allowed me to grow the business without having to pay for an expensive consultant.” — Derek Capo, Next Step China

Maybe: Your Relationship Could Get Stronger, or Get Worse

“It depends. If you put family first and sure you always will (and they do too), then it can create complications and risks. But if you’re willing to accept those complications and risks, it could also enhance your relationship with your family.” — Dan Price, Gravity Payments

Yes: There Are Fewer Trust Issues

“We love hiring family at our companies. The upside is that you know you don’t have to worry about trust issues. Having that out of the way is a huge plus. However, you must make it clear that business is business. This means not taking things personally and accepting criticism just as you would from any other co-worker.” — Peter Awad, GoodBlogs

No: The Risk of Losing The Relationship Is too Great

“While I love my family, starting a business is a risky proposition. While it’s nice to think about the upside of your family getting rich, I prefer to think about hedging risk. The downside of losing money — and possibly a friend if there is contention — is too great to ignore.” — Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches

Maybe: Only if You Can Separate Personal and Business

“Working with family can be great, and it can be terrible. If you and your potential co-working family members have the ability to completely separate personal and business, it can work well. But if you can’t, which is really difficult, it can be disastrous. If you do indeed take the plunge, it’s important you understand that other workers will view your relationship as if there is special treatment.” — Adam Callinan, Beachwood Ventures

No: People Are Different at Home and at Work

“The people you know and love in the family room can be polar opposites of themselves when they’re sitting in a conference room. People sometimes act differently in the workplace, and you might not like what you see or hear. If you value your family relationships, be prepared to experience another side of your family that you haven’t seen. Depending on the person, this could be a good or bad thing.” — Brett Farmiloe, Markitors

Yes: Family Will Stick With You Through Good and Bad

“Family is the strongest bond that you will ever make in your life. Friends may come and go at their own convenience, but family will stick through the good and the bad, which naturally make good business partnerships. However, you need to set clear expectations up front to ensure that each family member involved understands what’s expected of him or her.” — Andy Karuza, SpotSurvey

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