How many of us add “fluff” (unnecessary information) to our emails?
According to a 2012 study by McKinsey and Company, the average worker spends 28% of their day reading and answering email.
Eliminating extra information from emails can reclaim a large portion of your workday, and increase productivity.
Boulder, Colo. entrepreneur Andreea Ayers discovered the impact of shortened correspondence when she hired a business coach to help her with her marketing company Launch Grow Joy. At first, she was concerned she had chosen the wrong person after she read this postscript at the bottom of an email she received:
“To save your time and mine, I’m limiting all my responses to five sentences or less.”
Ayers said, “I thought to properly respond to my questions, she would need to write more than five sentences.” However, Ayers found that the more she practiced this time-saving method, the more it worked, “We spent less time emailing and more time actually implementing the strategies we were discussing.”
Guy Kawasaki, author of APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur (Nononina Press, 2013), states “Proper email is a balance between politeness and succinctness. Less than five sentences is often abrupt and rude, more than five sentences wastes time.”
Think about it…how many of your emails could be trimmed of “fluff”, down to 5 sentences?
As managing director of Garage Technology Ventures, Kawasaki’s inbox is often full, but the emails he sends are almost always 5 sentences or less.
Guy shares 4 guidelines to help you get to your point quicker:
When you write an email, it should provide just enough information to answer these 5 questions:
- Who are you?
- What do you want?
- Why are you asking me?
- Why should I do what you’re asking?
- What is the next step?
Kawasaki states, “This is all an intelligent person needs to know to make a decision.”
Read your email over. Is there any “fluff”, or unnecessary information you can take out before you send it? People who feel a need to elaborate probably believe their request is on shaky ground in the first place, says Kawasaki. But adding “fluff” won’t get the recipient to take action.
“Long emails are either unread or, if they are read, they are unanswered,” says Kawasaki. “Right now I have 600 read but unanswered emails in my inbox.”
Limiting yourself to 5 sentences forces you to think concisely, helping you stay focused, and saving you time. Shorter emails also allow the recipient to make a quick decision on what action to take, increasing the likelihood that you’ll receive a reply.
If you want to encourage the recipient to reply in a similar fasion, web designer Mike Davidson created five.sentenc.es, a website that explains the philosophy and includes text you can copy and paste into your email signature.
4. Limit everything…except praise.
Kawasaki states the one exception to the five sentences rule: “When you really don’t want anything from the recipient and you simply want to heap praise and kindness upon her, then you can go on as long as you like!”