We are all extremely busy and we have no time to read email and to reply. It’s time for an approach that fully embraces the “less is more” strategy. It’s not about being more polite but about being more efficient. Our goal? Getting the response we need.
First of all let me ask you a question. Do you like getting long emails? Your answer probably is ‘no’. No one likes to get long emails. Train, or better yet challenge, yourself in keeping your emails as concise and as short as possible. Two or three lines will do the trick. Nowadays it’s even more important to keep your messages short because of the fact people more and more read their email on their smartphone or blackberry. Remember that shorter is easier to digest. When doing so it’s more likely to get the response you needed.
You should never summarize within your email. Just get to the point and focus on the action points. From time to time I get emails containing stuff that has been talked about in meetings. I briefly scan those emails and put them in an archive. I have no idea why I even put them in there because in 95% of the cases I will never look at them again. People want concrete actions right away. So give it to them. Keep the attention on the items you want to draw attention to.
You should include deadlines within your email. It might sound a little bit silly but for busy people a deadline works like a charm. You in fact give them the opportunity to integrate the tasks into their schedule. When doing so you always have to stay polite and always state if it’s optional or imperative.
Numbering your questions should be standard protocol. If you don’t, you risk having that someone will just answer the first question that happens to catch their eye. Save yourself the trouble of replying with an email to ask them all the questions again. While numbering your questions you create structure and let the questions really pop out. Keep the questions short, just like your email.
When writing an email always be proactive and take the lead in your communication. Never ask someone what he thinks about a certain subject. You should always make the first move. Use bullet points if necessary. It’s not something that is forbidden when writing an email.
When sending an email it can be a good idea to tag your subject line. If I send a “FYI”-email I mostly include the tag [FYI] within the subject line. Other examples: [Statistics] or [Report]. This way, when somebody is skimming his inbox he knows right away if it’s necessary for him or not.
Stop being a sinner. Stop sending emails like:
- FYI emails. Stop bugging others with “FYI” emails. There are certain things that need to be shared of course. But only send non-actionable correspondence. We all try to digest a bunch of information every day. We don’t need more.
- Angry emails. Email is a limited medium when it comes to conveying tone.
- Reply to all. Do your best to not ‘reply to all’. Nobody likes a conversation through email. If you feel the need to ‘reply to all’ it’s probably better to do the conversation face-to-face.