Bullet Points (For the love of god)

I’ve been doing a lot of emailing back and forth with a financial guy doing some loan reshuffling stuff for us. Email is perfect for this because the process involves a lot of digging up documents and talking with other people before a proper response can be made. Async stuff – a massive strength of email.

One problem is that randomly these emails seem to turn into calls. For no particular rhyme or reason, I’ll just get called about one of them, and the phone call helps nothing at all, it’s just a time-wasting re-hash of what is in the email. I get why bosses and salespeople do that, because they are trying to push their thing on top of your mindstack and they know that being rude to you is a small price to pay when it works.

Another problem is the style of email. These emails I get are almost like stream-of-consciousness strings of text. Usually the information I need is buried in there, but I have to dig it out. For example, what is really needed as a next step is two particular documents, but they aren’t called out specially, I just need to read the long paragraphs to find the asks.

What occurred to me about is that a combination of behaviors is what made it so hard for me. I sometimes don’t deal with emails the second I get them. I might come back to an email 10 times before I deal with it. Like my brain needs to see it again and digest it a little more before I have the right plan built up to deal with it. Maybe I’m unusual in that respect (I really need to interview some folks about stuff like this). So when I have a hard-to-parse email, it grates on me. I can’t revisit the email and understand the needs quickly, I have to take an extra-long pause on it while it goes through my brain’s rendering engine to get the important bits out.

The solution, and I don’t think it just benefits me, is to make extraordinarily clear in an email what the requests or next steps are. Bullet points go a long way here. Even if they are in addition to what has already been written, they still help.

blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah .

I need:

• A P&L and Balance Sheet from 10/1/2019 to 12/31/2019
• An account statement for January

Now my brain parser can jump down to that last bit when I revisit the email and be reminded exactly what needs to get done.

Everlane Marketing Email

Clever to use a Fwd: subject line for a (probably?) marketing emails. Dan Frommer called it “messy” marketing in his last email.

A forwarded email chain follows, quoted-message lines and everything: “Ok, let’s do this,” Michael Preysman writes. Do what? Scrolling down, a voyeuristic puzzle unfolds, leading back to an original Everlane promotional email from 2014.

What is this?

It took me a second to figure out what was going on, and that I hadn’t actually been forwarded actual internal emails from a company CEO. That’s been particularly top of mind lately, after The Verge published “leaked” embarrassing Slack screenshots from Away, the luggage startup, which went viral and created a PR crisis.

Probably only works once.

Muting (and Unmuting) Thought Leaders

I saw these two things back to back and thought it was funny.

  • 98 Voices is a plea from thought leaders who are sick of their emails going into Gmail’s promo inbox, so they built an app that manipulates your Gmail filters to make sure their emails go into your main inbox. So far, Google isn’t allowing it.
  • mute.vc is a little app to help you mute a bunch of platitude-spewing VC people on Twitter.

One, a bunch of thought leaders not wanting to be silenced, the other, intential silencing of thought leaders.

I’m not particularly bothered by either problem, I just enjoy a good contrast.

Recognition

In the past I’d get an email from some company, and I’d be like who are they again? I can’t remember what they do. I wonder if I have an account there or something.

Lately: nah.

If I can’t recognize immediately who this company is and why I’m getting this email: unsubscribe.

Email is such a personal space and tending to it so important, there is no way a company that I don’t even recognize is worth all that parsing time.

To vs reply vs bcc

Seth Godin:

How much of your inbox activity is initiated by you? What percentage of your email threads started with an email you wrote?

And how much is spent replying to others?

And finally, how often are you bccing or being bcced?

I hope we can agree that the percentage for the third category should be close to zero.

But for the first two, the simplest way to change your day is to dramatically alter the percentage of the first two categories so that you’re adding way more value for others. In whatever way works best.