How to Write Better Emails

Get tips on how to write more efficient emails and learn how to cut out the back and forth that slows down a project.

Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #130

You Need to Write More Efficient Emails

Think about all the information you'll need to finish the conversation and then put as much of it into your next message to ensure the conversation moves forward.

You're probably smarter than an old fashioned military commander. If you had to send horses back and forth sentence by sentence, you'd be highly motivated to find a better way. The problem is that you both have information in your brain that you're thinking, but it's only coming out a word or two at a time in your conversation. Even if you want to speed things up by kidnapping them and eating their brain, that won't leave them in any condition to help with your problem.

You can, however, bypass the horses by putting as much into each message as you can; get what's in your brain out. Think for a moment about what you need to communicate. Think about the next sentence, as you do now, but keep going. Think about all the information you'll need to finish the conversation. Then put as much of it into your next message as you can, to ensure the conversation moves forward.  I discussed these same principles in my episode on avoiding phone tag, so revisit it if you want more advice.

How to Write Better Emails

You would write to your Tofu group:

"Hey, let's meet to discuss the Tofu resolution we'll present at City Council. Let's meet Friday at 8 in the meatpacking district. If that doesn't work, Tuesday at 4 in the vegetable packing district. Let me know what works for you, or suggest an alternative." 

You know that to plan any appointment, you'll eventually need to state the agenda, when, and where it is. By sharing it all at once, your Tofu minions just need to say "Yes" or suggest an alternative.

Include Default Actions in Your Emails

You still run the risk of your Tofu minions not responding. Maybe they've passed out from malnutrition, or maybe they're just too busy and forgot they needed to get back to you. Then you're left holding the bag. You can't keep the project moving until you hear from them. By including a default action, however, you can keep going, even if they're busy receiving a glucose drip. It's easy.

"If I don't hear from you, I'll assume you're OK with the Friday at 8 p.m. time." Once you include that in your message, you're golden. If they respond, you'll have their alternative suggestion. If they don't respond, you still have a plan.

It's not just for planning a meeting. You can use it for decision-making, too. "Honey, I'm planning entertainment for little Casey's 5th birthday party. I don't know whether to rent Bambi, Cinderella, or Evil Dead: The Musical. Unless you suggest an alternative by Saturday, I'll pick up Evil Dead." Notice that we gave a default movie AND a default time limit. That way, the decision can only stay in limbo until Saturday.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.