How to get your emails answered

Ever waited for a response to an email?

Some people really need to get their act together, but have you ever considered what you are doing to contribute to their delayed response? Have you ever considered how difficult your emails are to respond to?

The simplest emails to respond to are the ones you can simply type “yes” or “no” to, so why not try writing all of your emails as yes / no questions.

Example #1: You are trying to arrange a meeting with someone:

Typical: Hey Joe, I’m free on Tuesday morning or Wednesday afternoon, what works best for you?

Better: Hey Joe, are you free to meet on Tuesday morning at 10 am?

Joe loves getting these emails. No ambiguity, no looking to see which is the better option. Joe can quickly check his calendar and fire off a simple yes or no from his smartphone in between meetings.

Example #2: Requesting feedback on a proposed budget

Typical: Hey Fred, attached is the proposed budget for the project, as you can see blah, blah, blah, etc.

Better: Fred, Do you approve the attached budget? As you can see blah, blah, blah, etc.

Again, from the first line, the point of this email is clear. Fred can answer “yes” to approve, and “no” to decline. Now this might be a complicated enough issue that Fred can’t do this from his smartphone, but the option is there.

But what if you can’t make the email that simple?

Consider these options:

  1. Split the email into multiple yes/no question emails.
  2. Create numbered options.
  3. Call the recipient to discuss and/or arrange a conference call / meeting.

Splitting the email into smaller parts can be a very effective tactic. If there are multiple decisions buried in a single email the recipient might defer answering your email until they have time to read the entire email. If you split them up they will be able to quickly go through and respond. Also don’t discount the dopamine rush your recipient get’s for crossing off your email from their to-do list.

Create numbered options is a good tactic where the issue being discussed is sufficiently complicated. And by numbering the options, I mean starting a new paragraph, and typing “OPTION 1:” and then followed by another paragraph “OPTION 2:”. This will allow the recipient to simply type a single digit to respond to your email.

If neither of the above options is a good fit, you should not send the email (yet).

If you can’t split the email up or describe it as a simple set of options, I would recommend calling the recipient to discuss. That way you can simply send an after-the-fact follow-up email to confirm the discussion. If you can’t resolve it through a few phone calls, arrange a conference call or a meeting.

Anything you do to make your emails more likely to get acted upon is worth it.

Everyone enjoys crossing things off their to-do list. Writing yes/no emails will help make answering your emails more enjoyable for your recipients and you will get more done.


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