Leo Babauta of Zen Habits wrote a great blog post earlier this year. I recently looked up Your Emails are Too Long and my worst fears are true. I am breaking all of the six rules he recommends. Below are his six rules:
Rules for Short, Effective Emails
Ignore these rules at your peril:
- Keep it to 5 sentences. No more. I stole this from five.sentenc.es of course, but I’ve used it for years and it works. I usually try to do fewer than 5.
- Figure out your main point. If you think you need more than 5 sentences, you haven’t figured out the key thing you want to say. Take a second to figure it out, and stick to just that.
- Ask one thing. Don’t ask 10 questions, just ask one. Or two at the most. You’re much more likely to get an answer quickly.
- Edit. If you stretched it to 8 sentences, cut out 3.
- Link. If you need to refer to info, include a link to it on the web.
- Post it. If the info you need to share isn’t on the web, put it there. Create a long answer or long background document (then edit it to the essential info) and post it online. Use your blog, or one of the many free tools for posting info. Create an FAQ if it’s useful. Link to it in your email.
I used to write emails the way I would speak. Broken sentences, a lot of ellipses, dashes and random thoughts falling out of endless paragraphs that had no point.
Though I don’t do that as much as I used to, I am still guilty of writing way too much to get my point across.
New plan: minimalist email writing. Enough said.
How do you respond to email? Are you effective? How long does it take you to answer you daily emails?