How to get fewer emails.

It’s been reported that the average ‘professional’ (whatever THAT means) receives about 100 emails a day. Some researchers argue that 50 emails a day is all we can really handle, before our brains start to get kooky.

Numbers & theories aside, I think we can all agree: email overload is reaching a fever pitch. And not a good fever, like disco or cowbell. A bad fever. Like typhoid.

Me? I’m perpetually refining my relationship with email.

Some days, email is my friend — a beautiful tool to expedite & amplify my work in the world.
Other days, email is not my (best) friend — more like a problem to solve, or a mole to be whacked.
And other days, I feel like throwing my laptop out the window & making a home for myself inside a tree by Walden Pond.

I’ve dedicated a lot of time to thinking about how to organize emails, prioritize emails, and respond to emails faster. But lately, I’ve been considering a more interesting question: how can I GET less email, in the first place?

Here are my latest ideas. Are they revolutionary concepts? Not really. Are they valid, important reminders? I think so. And if you agree, I hope you email me & tell me allllll about it. (Just kidding. Commmmmpletely. ;)

7 ways to get LESS EMAIL:

1. Send fewer emails.

I know, right? This is the BIG (and most obvious) one. If you want to get fewer emails, send fewer emails. Simple. Done.

2. Unsubscribe from things you don’t need (or read.)

And that includes my weekly musings. You have my blessing. 1,000%. Do it.

3. Don’t answer emails (right away). Or ever.

A lot of “urgent emails” tend to resolve themselves. Case in point:

About once or twice a day, I’ll get a frantic email from a lovely human who says something like, “Alex! ZOMG! I bought one of your products & I think I downloaded it wrong, or lost it, or something. Can you send it to me, again?”

And then, 90% of the time, if I wait an hour or two and DO NOTHING AT ALL, that same person writes back and says, “Alex! ZOMG! I found it. My bad. Nevermind!”

Problem = solved. It’s like the original email nevvvver existed.

4. Create boundaries & pathways … that don’t lead to your inbox.

If you’re a blogger or entrepreneur, you might have a contact form on your website. But not all contact forms are created equal.

If you peek at my contact page, you’ll notice that I re-direct folks to various spots on my website, encouraging them to “help themselves” … before asking for my help.

Not everybody reads (or follows) my little encouragements. But most people do. And for that, I am (deeply) grateful.

5. Be freakishly succinct.

Lately, I’ve been experimenting with answering emails in the style of a haiku, or in just three sentences. (I don’t always succeed, but the intention shines through.)

When you are freakishly succinct, other people tend to mirror your style. It also makes “clearing your inbox” feel like a playful game — instead of a chore. Poetry for the win!

6. Respond with declarations, not questions.

If you conclude an email with “What time do you think we should have dinner?” or “What price feels good for you?” or “How do you think we should proceed, from here?” … you will generate more emails, with more questions, requiring your continued thought & attention.

Instead of an open-ended question, try ending your emails with a clear declaration: “7pm.” “$500.” “Let’s reconnect in one week. I’ll call you at 10am next Monday.”

People will be grateful for your precision. (I know I am!)

7. Model the behavior that you’d like to see.

This goes for emails, and like … everything ever.

If you make a habit of emailing friends, colleagues (or even total strangers) asking for “advice” on things you could prrrrrobably Google, yourself … then others will prrrrrobably do the same, to you.

If you write long, rambling, jigsaw-puzzle-esque emails … then you’ll get responses that are equally mystifying.

But! If you are graceful, concise & articulate … well, you know the rest.

To paraphrase our ol’ buddy, Dr. Phil:

You teach people how to treat you. (Including how to email you.)

So, be a clear & consistent teacher. Your inbox (and psyche) will thank you.

How do YOU feel about email — and how do you handle the ever-flowing stream?

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