Before You Start An Email, Set A Timer

If you have trouble writing and replying to emails, here’s a simple trick: Set a timer for three minutes. Now write that whole email before the time runs out.

You’re not allowed to keep writing past three minutes. In fact, if you want to write any more, you have to wait until tomorrow and do another three-minute chunk. How about you wrap up before your three minutes are over? That seems easier.

(Set the timer on your phone, or search “set three minute timer” and Google will start one for you.)

You accomplish two things this way. You avoid spending too long on the actual email. And you stop being too intimidated to start. You can survive three minutes of writing an email.

The length of the timer is actually up to you. Fast Company recommends setting a five-minute timer, but we think that’s still too much room. If you need to burn through a big inbox, a half hour of emailing is only six 5-minute emails, or ten 3-minute emails.

If three minutes really isn’t working, go up to five. But no higher. If an email really isn’t done after five minutes, you have to walk away til tomorrow. Or instead pick up the phone.

Or, as Fast Company suggests, try switching to a non-email format like Google Docs:

If you think it’ll take longer than five minutes to write, your email probably isn’t an email. It’s probably a memo sent in email form or a persuasive essay that starts with “Hi.”


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