I've been very frustrated with my email overload these days. Here's my new autoresponder.
Big thanks to Jeff Ragovin for pointing out Chris Anderson's post. And thanks to Ronda Carnegie from TED for pointing it out to Jeff. And thanks to WPP for letting Jeff attend Stream and meet Ronda. And thank you Roger Ehrenberg for introducing me to Karin Klein, who introed me to WPP. And thanks to my mom for birthing me. Strange how things happen.
Anyway, here you go ...
"Houston, we have a problem. We all love the power of email connecting people across continents. But... we're drowning in it."
So began an amazing blog post TED's Chris Anderson posted earlier this year (http://bit.ly/oojA20). And I'm sure you, like me, are facing the same problem. Emails reproduce and spiral out of control much faster than we can keep up, creating a never ending death loop of messages. And before you know it, we're doing what other people want us to do and not what we should be doing.
Why am I telling you this? Simple. I used to pride myself in getting back to emails within an hour or two, or at most, a day. But that hasn't been happening for a while. And instead of letting that fact eat at me, which I have been tending to let happen of late, I have decided to try to tackle the problem and spread a solution I outline below.
The time I take to respond to you is in no way related to my interest in talking to you (it COULD be, but in most cases, it's not.) I like to connect more than anyone else I know (other than potentially my friend Gary Vaynerchuk://bit.ly/pSjrcX) And I know that having this autoresponder on adds one more email to the system. But my goal is to use this one autoresponder to fix the problem not only for me, but for you as well. Yes, I'm adding another email to your box. But I hope to be taking many, many more out of your box by doing so.
The problem, you see, is one that we all share. It's a "commons" problem and a problem that will only get better if we all want it to get better. The first step is to check out and internalize Chris' email rules here: http://emailcharter.org/index.html.
As Chris writes, "To fix a 'commons' problem, a community needs to come together and agree on new rules. That's why it's time for an Email Charter. One that can reverse the escalating spiral of obligation and stress."
The second rule is my favorite, and one I hope you understand as well: "Let's mutually agree to cut each other some slack. Given the email load we're all facing, it's OK if replies take a while coming and if they don't give detailed responses to all your questions. No one wants to come over as brusque, so please don't take it personally. We just want our lives back!"
Of course, I'm not perfect. I'm sure I'll continue to violate each of these rules. And some will be violated daily, or weekly. But we can only fix this problem if we all try our best.
Lastly, if this is an emergency and you need to reach me right away, please contact Karla (karla at buddymedia dot com).
Thanks for your understanding. And here's to a world of more efficient emailers.
P.S. I have pasted the "10 Rules to Reverse the Email Spiral" below.
1. Respect Recipients' Time This is the fundamental rule. As the message sender, the onus is on YOU to minimize the time your email will take to process. Even if it means taking more time at your end before sending.
2. Short or Slow is not Rude Let's mutually agree to cut each other some slack. Given the email load we're all facing, it's OK if replies take a while coming and if they don't give detailed responses to all your questions. No one wants to come over as brusque, so please don't take it personally. We just want our lives back!
3. Celebrate Clarity Start with a subject line that clearly labels the topic, and maybe includes a status category [Info], [Action], [Time Sens] [Low Priority]. Use crisp, muddle-free sentences. If the email has to be longer than five sentences, make sure the first provides the basic reason for writing. Avoid strange fonts and colors.
4. Quash Open-Ended Questions It is asking a lot to send someone an email with four long paragraphs of turgid text followed by "Thoughts?". Even well-intended-but-open questions like "How can I help?" may not be that helpful. Email generosity requires simplifying, easy-to-answer questions. "Can I help best by a) calling b) visiting or c) staying right out of it?!"
5. Slash Surplus cc's cc's are like mating bunnies. For every recipient you add, you are dramatically multiplying total response time. Not to be done lightly! When there are multiple recipients, please don't default to 'Reply All'. Maybe you only need to cc a couple of people on the original thread. Or none.
6. Tighten the Thread Some emails depend for their meaning on context. Which means it's usually right to include the thread being responded to. But it's rare that a thread should extend to more than 3 emails. Before sending, cut what's not relevant. Or consider making a phone call instead.
7. Attack Attachments Don't use graphics files as logos or signatures that appear as attachments. Time is wasted trying to see if there's something to open. Even worse is sending text as an attachment when it could have been included in the body of the email.
8. Give these Gifts: EOM NNTR If your email message can be expressed in half a dozen words, just put it in the subject line, followed by EOM (= End of Message). This saves the recipient having to actually open the message. Ending a note with "No need to respond" or NNTR, is a wonderful act of generosity. Many acronyms confuse as much as help, but these two are golden and deserve wide adoption.
9. Cut Contentless Responses You don't need to reply to every email, especially not those that are themselves clear responses. An email saying "Thanks for your note. I'm in." does not need you to reply "Great." That just cost someone another 30 seconds.
10. Disconnect! If we all agreed to spend less time doing email, we'd all get less email! Consider calendaring half-days at work where you can't go online. Or a commitment to email-free weekends. Or an 'auto-response' that references this charter. And don't forget to smell the roses.
UPDATE: Several people were offended by this autoresponse. So I have turned it off. But the sentiments shared above still hold true.
This post recaps the epic, year-long negotiation between business phenom and great guy Gary Vaynerchuk and Myles and Cole. It started last year at a casual Sunday brunch at our apartment when Gary pulled out a wad of cash and offered Cole and Myles $200 to become Jets fans. Myles and Cole said no. Their hearts stayed with the Giants and Patriots respectively.
Over the summer, they looked at the increasing price of video games and all things they care about. So they started to hustle, looking for ways to augment their income. They decided the most efficient way (as determined by effort/dollars made) was to open up negotiations with Gary. Here is the video negotiations.
The Counter Offer
Gary V's Response
The Kids' Response
Gary's Counter to the Kids' Response
The Boys Respond to Gary's Low Ball Offer
The Boys Release a Secret Phone Call with Gary V
VIDEO: Myles & Cole Offers to Pay Gary Vaynerchuk to be Giants/Patriots Fan