It’s a new year—and if you’re still dealing with an inbox full of emails from 2019, here are three tips to help you do email better in 2020.
First, take any email that’s over three sentences long and see if you can make it shorter. As Lifehacker’s Nick Douglas explains in his post on how to write a perfect email:
Go through your message and strip out all the self-reference, the second-guessing, and the redundancy. Again, it’s not a problem that you wrote all that. It’s only a problem if you don’t edit it out. It’s similar to another basic editing tool: Delete the first paragraph, which you probably spent warming up. Delete the last paragraph, which was repetitive or overreaching. Save your readers time and energy.
As you’re stripping out all of that self-reference and second-guessing, check to see if any of the phrases in your email can be replaced with clearer, stronger alternatives. Use Dani Donovan’s Email Like a Boss printable infographic for inspiration—instead of writing “sorry for the delay,” for example, you could write “thanks for your patience.”
Printable version of my email reminders for quick and easy reference! ????— Dani Donovan ???????????? ADHD Comics (@danidonovan) May 22, 2019
(Floof approves.) pic.twitter.com/mzckXcdCaA
Donovan, a comic artist whose work focuses on ADHD, created the guide as a way to help both herself and others:
I have a bad habit of overusing exclamation points, emojis, and qualifiers like “just” and “possibly” to sound extra-friendly and non-threatening in emails. (“Just wondering / just confirming / just checking / just making sure / just wanted to let you know”)
Another of Donovan’s email tips is to stop perseverating over email drafts and turn those lengthy, multiple-revision emails into actual conversations (preferably before you spend an hour re-re-revising them). While we all know that some emails need to remain emails so that you can maintain a record of the communication, there’s also a benefit to what Nick Douglas calls the “three-minute rule:”
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.
Again, this won’t work in all cases, but it should help you clear out a lot of what’s in your inbox.
So. Three minutes, three sentences, and as little second-guessing as possible. Use these three tips to help you improve your 2020 email—and quickly reply to all of the messages that have piled up in the time it took you to read this article.