With an increasing volume of emails and the heavy reliance on email as our primary mode of communication, it's become even more important to write effective emails. I put together 4 tips that help me reduce time in my inbox and focus efforts on my core work.
1. Put your ask in the beginning
People tend to scan emails. Sometimes, they don’t even get to the bottom. Put what you need done right in the first sentence, and add the background if you need/wish after it. "Hey Matt — what's our CTR on Facebook ads? I'm preparing a report for Lindsey, and etc etc etc." Including the additional details afterward will allow them to say something like "oh, I already did that. Here's the report. See attached."
2. Determine what you want to happen
When you write or respond to an email, your goal isn’t to get the email off your desk (how most of us are operating these days). It's to resolve the issue. Either nip it or present the next step. So take the extra minute to determine what the true next best step is for the problem/comment/forward, and then respond with that. This can drastically cut down the back and forth.
3. Call them
If I get a wordy email, sometimes I'll just give the person a ring to settle it. No "schedule a meeting" or "can you jump on the phone later this afternoon?" Just ring them. This eliminates what can turn into a longer thread, as you both ping the email back to each other in an attempt to hit inbox zero.
4. Use Bullets
If you can’t call them, the most effective tactic I’ve found for responding to wordy or conversational/stream-of-consciousness emails is to use bullets. For example:
“Hi Shannon. Great questions. Answers in bullets:
- Still on track to hit Monday launch.
- May run into snag this afternoon with tagging, but will know before EOD and will report it back to you.
- Photos look great, no issues. Thanks for sending through.”
“Answers in bullets” is a nice, quick conversational way to tee up that you’re going to be brief. And you probably don't need to do it more than a few times before teammates/clients become familiar with it.
Hope that helps.