Minda Zetlin at Inc, crediting advice from Adam Grant:

We can collectively cut [the 2 hours and 36 minutes we spend on email every day] way down by adding one simple sentence to the end of every email we send. The sentence should say something like this: “If you can, I would appreciate a response by ____, so that ____.” For example, to a potential customer: “If you can, I would appreciate a response by Wednesday afternoon, so that we can lock in the pricing we discussed.”

That advice is… fine. But it makes this assumption about all of our relationships with email. The assumption is that we use email as this primary communication tool in which we are in charge and are asking for things constantly.

It’s just not my favorite when email advice is tossed out there like it will work for everyone. With the nasty side effect of, well, if it doesn’t, then it’s something wrong with you.

This particular advice I don’t feel applies to me. That time-on-email estimate is about accurate for me, but my relationship to email is more… I suppose passive? My email is way more full of people asking me for things. I don’t do a lot of asking other people for things in email, nor do I plan to at the moment. If I was, say, about to start planning a conference, perhaps that would chance.

This kinda circles around a thesis I want to form about getting better at email. First, you need to hone in on your current relationship with email, knowing that it can be very different from the next person and so only a subset of productivity advice even applies to you. Then you need to figure out where you want to go with email, which is a different subset of actions and advice.

Say you’re overwhelmed with important incoming email and your whole goal is finding better ways to find the more important signals and triaging. Or say you’re fine with your email volume, it’s just that email isn’t really doing you any favors. Those two people are very different from someone who is essentially just drowning in spam, or someone who, if anything, struggles with following up on all the outgoing email they send.

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