In the past week, we've discussed best practices for reading and organizing email. Today, we will explore a strategy for writing email, based on a philosophy known as Five Sentences.
Most messages don't require a response at all. But responding to the messages that do often takes longer than handling all the rest combined. One reason: for many responses, we write too much.
When writing to recipients, keep your responses as short as possible, but no shorter. The official Five Sentences philosophy is that you should never write an email longer than five sentences. That's impractical, and in our minds, misses the forest for the trees - if an email needs to be longer, it should be. A good goal is to keep a majority of your responses to five sentences or fewer.
Even more important, if an email needs a response that's going to take more than five sentences or more than 3 minutes of work, then you shouldn't just automatically reply. If an email requires substantial effort to handle, it should be addressed in order of priority rather than being addressed now just because it arrived in an email.
The advantages to writing short emails:
If you are worried about offending people, don't be. A short, quick reply is more appreciated than a long, but delayed, response. Plus, if your recipients are suffering from the email overload problem, your short but sweet emails will be a breath of fresh air.
A customized signature can help as well. Try this: "Please excuse my brevity, I'm participating in the Revive Your Inbox program: reviveyourinbox.com". Or if you're feeling mischievous: "Sent from a phone"
|On average, it only takes 73 seconds to write a reply.||Tweet|
|Most replies shouldn't require more than five sentences||Tweet|
|If you can respond to a message in less than 3 minutes, you should do so immediately, then archive||Tweet|
We've now covered all of the fundamental techniques for quickly getting email organized and processed. Tomorrow, we'll put them all together into the ultimate email workflow.