AKA: Tell me what the hell you’re talking about
Let me tell you why I didn’t respond to your email yet. I’m not even going to apologize — you made it too hard for me to do it, so it turned into work, and so you got queued up with everyone else. But I WANT to answer you. I don’t want that stuff clogging up my inbox, and I don’t want to be behind on communicating with you. So I’m going to help you out. Here are some of the things you’re doing that mean I’m not answering as fast as you might want.
- You sent me a question without any background:
Will you be there tomorrow?
As of right now, I’m supposed to be 8 places tomorrow. None of them include my house, where I’ll hopefully start and finish. I’m more likely to answer fast if you ask this instead:
You still on tap for the UX meetup at Jonathan’s Grille [3805 Green Hills Village Dr, Nashville, TN, (615) 835-2073] tomorrow, Tuesday, March 12, 2013, at 5p? Please email or call me at 615.555.5555 so we’ll know if you’re coming.
See what you did there? You included all the details and you bolded what you want me to do. That’s a lot easier for me than checking my calendar to see what today and then tomorrow are, thinking about what I might be doing with you, where we’re doing it, when, and then, about whether or not I’d like to respond to you. The second request removes all the barriers. If I don’t answer now, I’m just a jerk. [Everyone is a jerk sometimes.]
- Here’s another thing you’re doing that pisses people off:
[To a group]
As you know, we’re going ahead with the initiative we talked about, so we’ll be reaching out to everyone to work on their part of the plan before our meeting next week.
I promise you, someone on this email has no idea what the hell you’re talking about. They are either deleting it, ignoring it, or clogging up your inbox with barely-disguised-angry requests for more info.
Do this instead:
I have had conversations with some of you individually and some of you in groups about creating a new sales initiative [and John, I think this is the first you’ve heard of it — but we want you involved, so let’s you and I talk today]. Dan, Betsy and I met with Mike, our VP, this morning, and he signed off on the idea. Our next step is to put together the full plan. We will start this in the next couple of days, because we have a meeting with Mike and the marketing group next Thursday, March 21, 2013, and we’ll want to be able to loop them in on our thoughts at that time.
I’ll contact you each in the next day to see what your schedule looks like in the next few days, and we’ll figure out how we can approach this project as a team!
That’s not a long email, but it gives everyone enough information to be intelligent about it, and you’ll have to do less catch-up when you do contact each person individually.
We’re all trying to work very quickly these days, and I find that it’s easy to skip the formalities and the details, particularly in informal, speedy communications like email or texting. And I also find that many times when I skip those details, I have to re-communicate, which takes even more time than doing it right the first time would have.
- The third big reason I didn’t answer your email is that while you did everything right, I got overwhelmed by the other jerks in my inbox doing these things above. I’m really sorry when that happens; I want so badly to reward your good behavior. Let’s all do each other a favor and give our correspondents more context so that none of us have to act like jerks anymore.