Over the past month, the most successful people I know have taught me a very important lesson: be a great emailer. Nearly all of them have a few simple tricks up their super-efficient sleeves: be ridiculously fast (responding in 30 minutes and no more than 24 hours), keep messages short, delegate responsibility through CC, and be available every waking moment.
Because I don’t want to turn this article into the name-dropping olympics, I’ll forgo identifying the people who inspired this post; suffice to say that it’s part of my job to occasionally deal directly with house-hold names in technology, media, and government and my interactions with them spill over with important life lessons.
Responsiveness Engenders Trust: Being a responsive communicator builds loyalty and support throughout your entire network. Research on distance communication from UC Irvine Professor, Judy Olson, has found that people judge the trust-worthiness of others over text-based communication largely by the quickness of their response. Because we can’t use the normal indicators, such as facial expressions or intonation, speed of responsiveness is the closest approximation we have.
As an example, take social media powerhouse, Mayor Cory Booker, as an example. He’s become extraordinarily popular with his own constituents, in part, because he’s directly and immediately responsive to their problems. Literally, the very last communication he had with a constituent over Twitter was answered in under two hours, yesterday evening (a Friday), about a parking ticket:
Sorry 2 hear. Call 973 733 4311 RT
@derspooky: I received a ticket for an expired meter. Meter was not expired though! How to plead my case?
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) August 24, 2012
Keep It Short: There’s only one way to dig through 500 emails a day: be brief. Digg founder and Google Ventures partner Kevin Rose is fond of putting “sent from my iPhone” in the signature of every email, so that respondents forgive short messages.
Be Quick, Very Quick: We spend an inordinate amount of time waiting for responses. When emails come back in under 20 minutes, it’s a simple truth that more stuff will get done.
Be Available All The Time: Some of the best ideas come and go in the wee hours of the night and are often time-sensitive. Moreover, great opportunities evaporate if they’re left to linger or get buried in a pile of unread emails. Barack Obama, arguably a busy man, is photographed (above) ever-watchful of his blackberry. Critics may say that multi-tasking is the death knell of thoughtfulness. But, researchers show that “supertaskers” can juggle multiple incoming streams just fine.
Delegate Through CC: Messages no longer than a few sentences and connected to the right person make doing business delightfully efficient. Good leaders are marked as much by their good ideas as knowing others who have the best ones.
So weekend warriors, stare down your overflowing inbox. Blaze through email with rapid-fire messages and breeze onto your social plans tonight unburdened with the pressure of email dancing in your mind–just remember to glance at your phone in between drinks.