Inbox zero may be a pipe dream for most of us, but the less clutter in your email, the better. In the spirit of this, author and professor Cal Newport makes the case for writing longer, more detailed emails.
Photo by Charles Kremenak
On his blog, Newport describes what he calls “process-centric email”. Here’s how it works, in simple terms:
- Identify the goal: What’s the purpose of the email thread? It might be planning a meeting, strategising a launch for a project and so on. Have a clear idea of the end goal.
- Come up with a process: How can you get to that end goal in the fewest amount of emails possible?
- Explain the process: Tell the recipient about the process so you’re both on the same page.
Newport offers an example of how this works in practice:
For example, assume a friend sends you a note that reads:
Do you want to grab coffee sometime soon?
Resist the urge to reply: “OK, what works for you?”
Sure, that message would be quick to write, but it does not outline a clear process that minimizes back and forth messages. Indeed, it is likely consigning you to a long, attention zapping thread.
Here, by contrast, is a process-centric reply:
Sounds great. I propose we meet at the Starbucks on campus. Below I have listed four dates and times over the next two weeks. If any of these work for you, let me know and I will consider your reply confirmation that the meeting is set. If none of these times work, then call me or text me on my cell (<number>) during one of my upcoming office hours (Tue/Thur from 12:30 to 1:30), when I’m sure to be around, and we’ll find something that works.
Yes, this makes for a longer email, but it should also mean fewer emails. This way, you get to the point without wasting time going back and forth, dragging things out for days. For more detail, head to Newport’s full post at the link below.