Google’s Eric Schmidt outlines nine useful email tips he thinks define the most effective people in his new book, How Google Works.
But his number 1 tip is by far the most instructive:
“Respond quickly: There are people who can be relied upon to respond promptly to emails, and those who can’t. Strive to be one of the former. Most of the best — and busiest — people we know act quickly on their emails, not just to us or to a select few senders, but to everyone.”
Even short messages, like “got it” help create a culture of efficiency and attentiveness. He continues:
“Being responsive sets up a positive communications feedback loop whereby your team and colleagues will be more likely to include you in important discussions and decisions, and being responsive to everyone reinforces the flat, meritocratic culture you are trying to establish.”
Readers may be tempted to think that someone as wealthy and busy as Schmidt doesn’t respond to most everyone quickly, but in my own experience, successful people really do have this habit. In my career, I’m lucky to interact with very successful people on occasion. I am shocked at how quickly they respond. The most successful people I know usually respond within a day, if not an hour.
Professor Judy Olson at the University of California, Irvine, has done some interesting research about why this habit is so important. She told me that in mediums where people cannot see facial expression or hear voice intonation, recipients tend to assume the worst.
Being responsive is one of the only ways in asynchronous messaging to signal that we do care about a person — even if it’s a short message. This helps build a culture of trust.
The rest of Schmidt’s email tips are outlined below (I’m paraphrasing for brevity’s sake):
- Write short, non-flowery emails. “Every word matters.”
- Clean out your inbox. “Any time you spend thinking about which items in your inbox you should attack next is a waste of time”
- Handle email in a Last In First Out order, since older stuff often gets taken care of by itself.
- Include other people in the conversation who might be useful.
- Be sparing with BCC; sometimes it’s better not to hide information from others.
- Don’t yell.
- Track requests made to recipients by labeling them [like a gmail tag]. If the message isn’t responded to, you can look at this category and then follow up. [My personal tip: I use the Mailbox app, which sends emails back to your inbox if they are not responded to in a specified time period.]
- Make email searchable by forwarding notes to yourself with a few key words.
You can read the full list of email tips here.