In a follow-up to 6 Steps to More Effective Emails, I’ve started implementing my own policies for how I handle email. Below are the policies I’ve shared with people who I communicate with often.
If everyone at my company were to follow these policies, built from ideas learned from Getting Things Done, The 4-Hour Workweek, and Lifehacker, email would cease to become a burden and make everyone’s life easier.
My Email Policies
1. I’m not controlled by email.
I only check email 2-4 times per day. A quick glance in the morning, around 10am, after lunch, and before I go home. If you have something urgent, don’t send it to me via email. The best bet is to catch me on Instant Messenger, then by phone, then by cellphone.
2. I am a nice guy, but also efficient.
After the initial email, I’ll generally aschew the pleasantries of the salutation and signature. You know who I am, I know who you are.
3. I believe brevity is the soul of wit.
Where possible, I will try to respond in one or two sentences. In the world of Blackberries, even a two paragraph response looks like “War and Peace.” If a much longer response is required, perhaps a phone call is necessary. For extra goodness, a <EOM> at the end of a subject stands for “End of Message,” meaning that everything I needed to say was in the subject line.
4. I will respond within 48 hours.
I will make my best effort to respond within 48 hours of your email (except over the weekend or when on vacation). If the response will require more time, I’ll send an email acknowledging the request and give an ETA for a full response.
5. I go through all email.
Your email will not be “lost in the shuffle.” I read and process every email that comes my way. If you haven’t received a reply back from me, 99% of the time it will be because 1) I haven’t gotten to it yet (meaning it hasn’t been 48 hours yet), or 2) I didn’t realize you were looking for a response… If you think you might be part of that 1%, send a follow-up if it’s been more than 72 hours.
6. I set expectations.
When they exist, I will detail next steps in my email along with an ideal timeframe for their completion. That way we’re both clear on what needs to happen next and who’s supposed to do it.
7. I want to make sure we’re on the same page.
My email signature will contain a link to this article, so if at any time you forget my tendencies, you can check it out again.
8. I believe in the positive power of humor.
I will often interject humor into emails. If you have a problem with this, please submit a complaint by faxing me using a shredder. (OK, if you seriously do have a problem with something said, let me know and we can discuss.)
8 Email Policies?
Mmm, 8 rules? That’s probably plenty. Obviously I would greatly appreciate you returning the favor of following the rules above. You may treat email differently than me, which is perfectly fine, just let me know what to expect.
Thoughts? Changes? Concerns? Leave ’em in the comments.