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. Completely.
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.)
Unroll Me is a godsend. Use it. You’re welcome.
3. Don’t answer every email right away.
A lot of “urgent emails” tend to resolve themselves without your direct input.
Case in point:
About once or twice a day, I’ll get a frantic email from a lovely person who says something like, “Alex! OMG! I bought one of your products and I think I downloaded it wrong, or lost it, or something. Can you send it to me again?”
And then, 95% of the time, if I wait an hour or two and DO NOTHING AT ALL, that same person writes back and says, “Alex! OMG! I found it. My bad. Never mind!”
Problem = solved. No additional communication required.
4. Anticipate commonly-asked questions — and re-direct people away from your inbox.
If you’re a blogger or entrepreneur, you probably have a contact page on your website. As your audience grows, you might find yourself getting a LOT of emails with the same types of questions.
This is a terrific opportunity to build specific sections on your site so that people can find the info they need WITHOUT needing to email you personally.
I recommend adding a note on your contact page that says something like, “Hey! I’m excited to connect with you. Before you send me an email, here are a few things to know…”
Then give your website visitor specific action steps.
For example: “If you’re writing because you want to sign up for my new seminar, awesome! The place to do that is right over here [link to seminar description / sign up page].”
Or: “If you’re writing because you’ve got a question about how I started my business or want to pick my brain, guess what? I’ve got a beautiful FAQ section that I created just for you. Check it out here. [link to FAQ page].”
The goal here is to “re-direct” your website visitor to a place where they can find the information they need. This is excellent because it means they don’t have to wait for you to respond to an email — instant answer, found! — and you don’t have to spend time responding! Total time-saver for both of you. Win-win.
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.
7. Model the behavior that you’d like to see.
This goes for emails… and everything ever.
If you make a habit of emailing friends, colleagues (or even total strangers) asking for “advice” on things you could probably Google, yourself… then others will probably 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 and 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 and consistent teacher. Your inbox (and psyche) will thank you.
How do YOU feel about email — and how do you handle the ever-flowing stream?