437. Wait. Make that 439. That’s the number of emails in my inbox. Four of those are unread. Most of them need to be deleted. As much as I would love to one of those people who get to zero by the end of the day or the week, I’m just not.
In general, I’m on top of email communication and responses, but just like everyone else there are emails that get lost in my inbox. (Which is now up to 442 emails and seven unread messages.) I like getting people the information they need and hate the feeling that I have unfinished business to address.
In my perfect world I would respond to every email within 24 hours. Nothing makes me happier than when I can give a prompt, almost immediate response to a note that landed in my inbox. The reality of my world is that I am often checking emails in a dugout between interviews, in a press box between innings, standing in line getting coffee or in my car between meetings. Not exactly the ideal environment for typing out lengthy responses, scrolling through a long email exchange or doing any sort of critical thinking around the response.
When I read an email and have to come back to it later there’s a much greater chance it gets lost in my inbox (now at 443 emails with eight unread messages.) I want to give you the information you need in a timely manner, but for that to happen I need you to do a few things:
It’s counterintuitive but it’s actually more accommodating. “Let me know what works for you” sounds gracious, but it requires a lot more work on my part to think through my schedule, consider all the different variables and sort through a number of scenarios before I can respond. Narrow my options. Be specific. Tuesday at 4pm or Friday between 10-1pm. Specific options allow me to go right to those times on the calendar and give you a quick response, even if that response is to suggest a different time.
The more questions you answer in the initial email the easier it is for me to respond. Just in case you need a refresher the 5 W’s are: Who, What, When, Where and Why. Withholding details doesn’t make it easier to agree to a request and the more emails it takes to get to those details, it’s more likely your email gets lost in my inbox.
I don’t need a how-to guide in the first email. I want you to jump to the end result. Find out if I like the end result and am on board with the outcome you’re trying to achieve. Once we’re in agreement then give me specific steps on how we’ll get there. For example, if you're taping a podcast and want to discuss current fashions in the sports world, I'm not your person. You might have the best credentials and biggest following but that's not what I talk about. If you want career advice on how to break into marketing I will respectfully decline because that isn't an area of expertise. Tell me what you want and I'll tell you if it's a fit.
I am not the only one managing an inbox full of messages. (Which is now at 449 with 13 unread messages.) I am not the only one checking emails while standing in line for coffee or in an elevator or while half listening to a training session.
If you want a response to your email, spend time crafting a thoughtful message. Carefully consider what would make it easy for me, or any recipient, to respond and you’ll never have to follow up with, “Did you get my email?”