“It just never stops,” is the most common complaint I hear about email.
While we complain about email, we still want people to read our messages. Stop here and estimate the average amount of time you spend reading each new email in your inbox.
What’s the number for you? Most of the studies I’ve seen conclude that number is counted in seconds…not minutes.
Your emails have seconds to either engage the reader or be ignored. Here are five things you can do immediately that will increase the likelihood that your messages get read and acted on.
1. Pick up the phone
The more you flood the inboxes of others, the less likely they’ll read any of your emails. Sometimes a better way to get a response is pick up the phone, especially when the topic is complex.
If you have some reasonable experience in your work, you can anticipate what kinds of email conversations are going to turn into the “reply-all to 8 people for the next three days” kinds of situations. When you’re getting past the second round of replies, pick up the phone or set a meeting.
2. Write a compelling subject line
Why are you reading this article?
It’s not because you were wondering how I’m doing and thinking about how much you miss my writing. You made a decision that your investment of time was worth it.
The subject line of this article makes it crystal clear what this writing is about and the value you will get from it. No message with a subject line like “Re: Re: Fwd: Monday’s meeting” isn't likely to grab anyone’s attention.
Bonus tip: Keep your subject lines shorter than the subject window in most email clients (so they don’t get cut off). Stay under 50 characters.
3. Keep it concise
200 words is less is ideal. More than 500 and email may not be the best medium. Less is more.
4. Stick to one topic
What happens if the reader has a response to one topic in your message, but no answer on the second? Chances are, you won’t get a reply until they know more.
I delay replies to complex messages until I can gather all the details. Chances are you do too. Separate different topics into multiple messages so others don’t delay their replies to you.
5. Send at the reader’s convenience
This article publishes on Wednesdays around lunchtime. Lots of people eat at their desks over lunch and more people work on Wednesdays than any other day (since people are always coming/going from long weekends).
Think about a time your message’s arrival is likely to be most convenient for your audience. Tip: two times to avoid are Friday afternoons (when lots of people are already thinking about the weekend) and Monday mornings (when many people are trying to process large inboxes).
[reminder]Which of these five strategies will you implement to get more of your emails read today?[/reminder]