Receive Fewer Emails and Get Your Message Across Over Email
Yesterday, we learned about the workflow I use to process incoming emails. We need to start thinking of every email you get as either something you need to take action on, track, or refer to later. This will help you make decisions and quickly get to Inbox Zero.
Something to question before using such as a workflow is: “How can I get fewer emails?” To truly become a GTD Gmail ninja, we must develop a reducing mindset: eliminating before optimizing.
In this lesson, I’m going to go over a few tricks you can use to receive fewer emails.
Receiving Fewer Emails
Although our GTD Gmail is an awesome productivity system, it wouldn’t be complete without covering how to get fewer emails in the first place.
Because: Awesome GTD Gmail + Fewer Emails = More Time for You!
Here are my top recommendations:
1. Unsubscribe: This means anything and everything you don’t need, like newsletters, groups, mailing lists, and notifications—unsubscribe right now. This cuts emails received by 80% immediately. Be gone!
2. Send fewer emails: Well, duh! Not every email needs a response, especially if it’s going to just be, “Thanks!”
3. Don’t answer right away: Many “urgent” emails tend to solve themselves. Raise your hand if you have a member of your team who sends a lot of these emails, only to find out that the issue has been resolved when you go talk to them. Yeah.
4. Be succinct: Don’t write ten sentences when two suffice. Try replying to every email with three sentences—and there’s no need to sign your name (they know who you are).
5. Respond with statements: Don’t answer questions with another question, generating an endless chain of messages. “What time should we have the meeting at?” is not an opportunity to reply, “Maybe 10 or 11 am, what do you think?” Be assertive: “10 am.”
Following these five principles will cut your email by more than 90%.
Get Your Message Across Over Email
Despite the above, you still want to make sure you get your message across. Here are a few additional tips on how to succinctly make your point:
#1 — Build the skill of brevity. Here’s a technique to practice: Take an email you’ve already written in your normal fashion and edit it down to half the words.
#2 — Avoid squishy words. Squishy words are your greatest enemy. Self-defeating phrases like, “I feel,” “I’m not sure,” or “perhaps,” using the passive voice, or pretty much any adverbs waste time for both you and your recipient and muddle your point.
#3 — Know your end before you start. Rushing straight into typing without a clear idea of what you’re trying to say is risky. Think about your intended outcome and outline it in plain spoken language. With practice, this outline actually IS your email.
#4 — Call out Action Items and names in bold. If there are multiple people on the thread and there’s someone in particular you want to reply, put their name in bold and clearly spell out what you expect from them and by when.
#5 — Remember the almighty TL;DR. Start the email with your conclusions in a “tl;dr” (“too long; didn’t read”) section at the beginning, either as a single straightforward sentence (in bold) or some brief bullet points.
#6 — Remember about forwarding etiquette and the dreaded FYI. Never forward along a massive email chain without a TL;DR of why you’re sending this and what you want the recipient to get out of it, such as a quick summary of the parts to focus on or an action item.
If you work in an office and get an email from a coworker about a project and it’s going to take you ten minutes to write a reply, guess what? Get up and go talk to that person, or wait until they take a break.
Personal interactions beat email any day of the week. It’s easier to convey time and make sure there are no misunderstandings.
Tomorrow, we will talk about additional tools and technology not included in Gmail that you can use to conquer your inbox.
To a Productive You!
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