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
I woke at 5:30 AM. Did a little email. I woke the kids. Made them a smoothie. I spoke to a buddy in Chicago about the normal stuff – kids, Buddy Media, deals and the markets.
I headed to the Meatpacking District to meet a colleague in the Starbucks in the Google building. And on my way out, I looked at my phone -- 2 missed calls and an email that punched me in the gut, “It is with a heavy heart and the deepest sadness that I write to let you know that Jen passed away this morning.”
I called Kass immediately. My anchor in every way sat in her office sobbing. Uncontrollably.
I zombie-walked toward my office. I just wanted to see Kass. To say hi to George in the front lobby. To sit at my desk. To feel normal.
12 rounds of chemotherapy. Six surgeries. More stomachaches and pain than any of us could even imagine.
Sick was Jen Linn’s normal. Death just a mindset, and not a scientific certitude. An inconvenient truth that could be delayed, conquered and even bent. And most of all, never feared.
“I will be a living role model to others,” she wrote on her site YouFearless.com, “that without fear, anything is possible.”
Anything, we all thought, including creating a cure to kick her own cancer. The comeback story for the ages.
It’s not a crazy idea, after all, for those of us born in the '70s. I remember watching the news that John Hinckley, Jr.’s bullet stopped an inch from President Reagan’s heart!
Magic Johnson announced he was HIV positive. A speedy death sentence for sure. That didn’t stop him from playing in an All-Star Game and winning a gold medal with the Dream Team. Twenty years later, he’s still alive, looking better than ever.
Jen never hid that she had cancer. But she roared, with all her passion, that cancer didn’t have her. And to make sure we all heard her now and forever, she launched Cycle for Survival, an organization that will continue to be a major contributor to wiping out cancer.
Millions of patients suffer from “rare” cancers like the one Jen had. They get little attention and even fewer research dollars. The term “rare,” however, is a misnomer as these cancers account for about 50% of all diagnoses and include leukemia, melanoma, pancreatic, brain, and all pediatric cancers.
Cycle for Survival is growing like a tech startup doubling the money raised to attack rare cancers each year. And cyclers have grown from a few hundred teams to more than 4,500 cyclers worldwide. In total, Jen’s baby has raised $9 million for direct cancer research and I expect next year’s event to double that number once again.
Cycle for Survival has helped shrink the time it takes to get trial cancer treatments from research lab to patients down to 18 months from 5 years. Keeping the best researchers in the lab and out of the fundraising process is critical to getting to “no” faster so we can eventually get to “yes, we have a cure.”
Jen created Cycle for Survival, but she was so much more. She spent her last few months writing for WebMD, helping other cancer patients and caretakers live better lives. She was a sought-after motivational speaker. As recently as May she keynoted the American Airlines’ Women in Aviation Conference in Dallas.
Jen is and will forever be one of Kass and my true inspirations. She taught us how to live purposefully in the most darkest of times. How to innovate when the stakes were the highest. How to treat others with kindness when kindness had been all but beaten out of you. How to dream big. Live bigger. And that without fear, anything is possible.
Help me carry Jen’s mission forward. Donate to Cycle for Survival today in Jen’s honor. Get involved. Get your company involved. I think we all can agree that the world would be a better place if cancer wasn’t taking many of our most promising and inspirational people away from us way too early.
Bruce Springsteen hasn't written a hit in years. But we go to the show to remember. Who we once were. When we had hope, when we believed, when we still had hair, when we were skinny.
Danny Federici was bad enough. Then again, there's been some change in the group. David Sancious used to play in the E Street Band. And Max wasn't the original drummer. And Nils Lofgren broke through with Neil Young. And Miami Steve left and then came back.
But there's no Springsteen without Bruce.
And there's really no E Street Band without Clarence Clemons.
Not only was the Big Man on the cover of "Born To Run", the breakthrough album, he signified that Bruce was something different, not a me-too act. Springsteen might have been labeled a Dylan wannabe, but when they finally turned up the band on the second record, and Landau enriched the sound on the third, the music was as far away from Dylan as Asbury Park is from Hibbing.
I bought that first album. And as good as "It's Hard To Be A Saint In The City" was, "Spirit In The Night" was the keeper. Because of the sax.
And "Rosalita" was the keeper on the follow-up album. For the same reason. The explosion of pure joy. When Bruce sings about the record company giving him a big advance you feel like it happened to a member of your family, you're not envious in a twenty first century way, wondering how come you haven't gotten yours, but thrilled that someone you know has made it.
And then came "Born To Run". If you'd been following at this point, the sax was not a surprise. It was an integral part of the group.
Then there was the end of "Jungleland". That lonely sax spoke of nothing so much as despair. That's the flip side of rock and roll. The exuberance and then the solitary feeling that you're Wall-E, alone in a city without heart, without hope.
And what do you do when you feel this way? Put on a record! It's the only thing that gets you through!
Springsteen changed with "Born In The U.S.A." He tried to become what we didn't want him to be. Everybody else's.
But he redeemed himself with "Tunnel Of Love". Listen to the title track. That's love, a ride on a roller coaster in the dark.
"Lucky Town" was the better album, but the title track of "Human Touch" was pure Bruce. Anthemic without being meaningless. Bruce was not Gene Simmons, he wasn't asking for your attention.
Ironically, that was Clarence's gig. He could be everything the Boss was not. Flamboyant. A cheerleader. Clarence could enjoy the success when Bruce could not.
But no longer.
Like Ian Hunter, we were shocked to find out how old Clarence Clemons was. We think all our stars start out in garages and are on their way by twenty one.
But it takes others time to find their way. Their life experiences enrich their music. They're one step ahead of us.
Then they're gone.
It was bad enough he had a stroke. Dick Clark had one of those, he may not speak well, but he's alive. Same with Kirk Douglas, hell, he was on the Oscars.
As long as Clarence Clemons was alive so were our hopes and dreams. On some level I'd just graduated from college, the E Street Band was on the stage at the Bottom Line, it was still a year away from "Born To Run", never mind law school, marriage and decay.
But then he died.
I found out the way you do now. On my BlackBerry.
And the e-mail got me frantically searching.
There was a link to TMZ. But I wouldn't believe it until a Twitter search confirmed it.
The Big Man had finally left the band.
Like Bill Murray said in "Stripes", one day Tito Puente's gonna die and you're gonna say you've been listening to him for years!
One day Clarence Clemons is gonna die and he won't be a secret. We'll all say we've been listening to him for years.
It's sad. For him.
And for us.
So put on a smile, let your freak flag fly, get behind the wheel of that convertible and floor it!
It's fucking great to be alive. Seize the moment.
Clarence may die, but the music survives.
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