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How to Email Busy People.


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Seven easy steps.

My favorites:

1. Subject lines matter.

2. Remind recipient of context.

3. Keep it under five lines.

And: If you don't hear from the person, send it again in a week...

Adam: as king networker of Silicon Valley do you have any sage advice to add? What does or doesn't work for you? Any additions, exceptions or caveats to those points?

I cannot read every email I get -- there's just not enough time in the day.

Often I will go back and find an email later and then take action on it.

So the most important thing is to make the email actionable.

The best action is a one-word answer.

The second best action is a one-sentence answer.

Also good is two sentences of context and a request it be forwarded to someone so I can alley oop it with a sentence of intro.

If the email is just an FYI it's ok to tell me no ack is needed.

If you really want an ack, say so.

And yes, resend if you haven't heard from me since it's likely to have gotten buried.

When it's me sending the email, I try to use these rules.

I actually put in my calendar to ping someone again in a week if I haven't heard from her or him.

I receive 300-500 per day. I read every single one. I act on, answer, or knowingly delete every single one, usually with a 3-4 day lag. I agree completely with Adam- make them actionable! That's the single most important thing. Next most important - don't ask for a meeting when a call will suffice or for a call when an email will suffice.

Almost all of the ones that I delete without answering have vague, unreasonable requests - usually meeting requests for a reason that could have been handled via email.

Please don't email me twice - I don't like that approach. It just means I'm behind in responding but I did read it. That's the only part that doesn't ring true.

Tim Ferriss posted his tips on the subject here.

Research says 6AM is the best time to send emails you want read.

Anyone else have any tips?

Adam, I actually just sent you an important (and short) email this week about PW :-)

Naval, good point about not everyone liking a double-send. In general people who use Gmail don't mind double-sends because Gmail keeps them in the same thread, but I have encountered other folks who were peeved by multiple sends so that's why I wait a week (or more!) as a rule of thumb.

Semil, will look at it this weekend. :)

Eric, one big rule I forgot is NEVER ASSUME AN EMAIL WILL BE KEPT PRIVATE.

Don't write anything in email you'd be horrified if published by a prominent blogger.

So funny about the "confidential." Email always was to me...prior to the SV crowd. I have woken up to things I've said in a "prominent" blog, and had my raving compliments (tainted with pointed humor) passed around SF. I've also discovered "Ha ha, I tweeted what you said," as a front-line joke. What ever happened to whoopy cushions and putting cellophane on toilet seats?

Dawn I agree, I'd much rather see everyone follow the "emails are private" etiquette.

Unfortunately, I've seen way too many shenanigans as you describe.

So it's better to be careful about what you say.

True. It's a different type of culture on the other side, from whence I came. Much more legal/high corporate stuff where emails were stamped w a million different layers of disclaimers. However, my rule in general has always been to always say something positive. If I have to have a difficult conversation, chances are I'll do it off print and in person.

Dawn, I agree that offline is much better or those things.

A few more tips:

1. Communicate action steps first not last.

2. Include a deadline: "Please answer by (date)."

3. Never reply all unless you absolutely must.

The fewer cc's on an email, the better.

So guilty of not.

Of course you are free to use email anyway you like, Geege. :)

"If I had more time, I'd have written a shorter letter." - Pascal

4 years late to the game....but reading all of the comments above are more insightful than most articles on the matter.  Thanks!

You are very welcome Edward!

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