While it’s incredibly important to be concise in your emails, it’s just as important to make sure your recipient can actually do something with what you’ve given them. We’ve always been big advocates of using the trusted trio of email folders, and taking all follow-up items and adding them to a separate to-do list. Here are a few tips to make sure emails you send follow that trajectory.
If Your Message Doesn’t Have a Purpose, Don’t Send it
As Gina notes in the Lifehacker book:
Every email message has a very specific purpose. Either you are conveying information or requesting action from the recipient. Before you click that Compose button, know what you expect to get out of the exchange. If you don’t know your message’s purpose, don’t write it.
The whole point of email is to get a response from the recipient, whether that’s completing a task, responding with answers to your questions, or something else. If you can’t quickly figure out what sort of to-do your message will produce, you probably need to rethink why you’re sending the message in the first place.
Focus Your Action Items
Make sure you aren’t including too many actionable items in one email, and that the items you are including are related, or they can get lost in translation. Even if your recipient reads and acts upon the email (which becomes less likely the longer and more roundabout it is), you might only get a portion of the actionable items finished if you include too many or don’t focus them enough. When possible, stick to one action item per email to make sure everything makes it onto the recipient’s to-do list.
Obviously, not every message you send can be so pigeon-holed, but the more often you stick to clear, concise emails that elicit a specific action or response, the more likely you’re going to get what you want out of the exchange.