Community, Content, Marketing | San Francisco

Email Hacks: How I (Attempt) To Respond to 100+ Emails a Day

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Screen Shot 2013-01-21 at 8.41.33 PM

Oh email. Some people don't get any at all; some get a lot. Some people have to power to not answer emails, unfortunately it's a huge part of my job. Community managers are in constant communication with team members and said managed community - this includes emails.

"If it's important they'll email twice" - have you heard that before? That's actually a terrible philosophy, particularly if you are a representative in your user community or a manager. Over the past few years I've picked up a few tips and tricks that help me get through this abundance of daily emails.

First Things First, Data!

Do you even know how much email you get? Who's sending it? Who are you responding to the most and how fast? Meet Gmail Meter - it's just a simple Gmail script but at the end of each month it sends you all kinds of data on your email:

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Screen Shot 2013-01-21 at 8.40.52 PM

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Screen Shot 2013-01-21 at 8.41.06 PM

Where are you spending most of your time? Who's sending you tons of email? I personally like to measure how long my emails are outbound vs. how long emails are that people send to me. Which brings me to...

TL;DR - Make Emails Short

Your emails should be 3-5 sentences. If you must make them longer, provide a TL;DR at the top. Sometimes you need to provide links, more information, etc which is fine, just make sure the important information is in the top 3 sentences. For you as a sender, the reader will only read the first 3-5 lines which you know is true for the mail you receive too. Thus, I fly through emails because I don't read past the 3rd sentence.

I would actually recommend crafting important emails like you would a PR person pitching a journalist to make sure they are read and responded to. Short and Sweet.

Make Responses Actionable

You know when you send an email and the person comes back with a million questions? Or maybe the email just says...nothing. When you respond to an email thread try to close it out - meaning create action items and/or end the conversation. Here's an example:

"Did you see this event? It looks like it might be valuable for us to attend or sponsor. What do you think?" 

Your response might be:

"Does look interesting! Any details on sponsorship? What fun things could we do there?"

That response is terrible! You just spurred a never-ending email thread. Here's what your response should be:

"Looks valuable. You take lead on getting sponsorship information. I'll coordinate with team to figure out who is available to attend and let's put a 30 min time on the calendar to re-group on Thursday."

Now people are moving to action and you won't have another email on that thread. Great job! Always Be Closing...email threads.

Timing is Everything

If you work in Startup Land, do not try to do emails Sunday evening - you will just get responses from everyone and start Monday with inbox 200. My general tips for timing include:

  • Monday is email day - commit and knock it out. It's what everyone else is doing anyways.
  • Evenings and particularly Friday afternoons are GREAT for emails - no one responds, you will get to inbox zero and close out everything for the day or week.
  • Sunday afternoon is risky, definitely don't hang around your inbox after 3pm.
  • See top right graph.

Boomerang isn't a Tool, It's a Lifestyle

If you have yet to discover Boomerang by Baydin, now is the time. Get emails out of your inbox and have them return to you when you're ready to take action. Think about email follow ups, get it sent back to you if no one responds to a thread or when you need to re-ping someone. Now with calendar integration you can set meetings and dates without leaving your inbox.

Go Forth, Find Email Productivity

The most important part of email productivity is to get out of your inbox. You have to get up from beneath the daily grind to strategize, plan and move things forward. Best of luck to everyone with exploding inboxes.