How much time do you spend reading and responding to email every day? For me, it’s often mid-morning (or even lunchtime) by the time I’ve sorted through emails, responded to everything, and finally gotten to start on something productive. And that’s assuming I didn’t have laundry or grocery shopping or — like many of you — a day job.
Back in June of 2011, TED Curator Chris Anderson (no relation to our Wired head honcho) and TED Scribe Jane Wulf wrote a blog post about the ridiculous amount of time that email takes — and a large part of the problem is that email is so easy and quick to send that it often requires more time from the recipient than it did from the sender: particularly if it’s been copied to a huge list of people. Their call for help and list of suggestions resulted in the Email Charter: 10 Rules to Reverse the Email Spiral.
I won’t repeat the entire charter here, but I urge you to check it out. Some particular rules that I know I need to work on myself are #2: Short or Slow is not Rude, and #8: Give these Gifts: EOM NNTR. I’m somebody who really feels like I need to respond promptly, and sometimes at length — the Email Charter points out that sometimes writing a succinct reply, or waiting a day (or a week!) to respond isn’t a bad thing. It gives people time to catch up and breathe.
The other two are acronyms which aren’t as widespread as LOL and BRB, but may be much more useful (and, let’s face it, truthful). EOM means “end of message” and is something you can tack onto your subject line for a very brief message. Is it really necessary to come up with some separate subject line (or worse yet, the generic “Hello” or “Hey”) for a simple email like “I’ll be there at 8pm”? Put your message in the subject with “EOM” on the end, and your recipient can read it at a glance and know there’s nothing more to read. And NNTR? “No Need To Reply.” How much time would we save as a whole if we stopped replying to emails that really don’t need a reply? If your email doesn’t need a response, add “NNTR” to the end (or the subject) and your recipient knows they don’t need to take a minute to write a contentless reply (see rule #9) back to you.
Ultimately, it’s about respecting the recipient’s time. So listen up, Internet: I’m attempting to adopt the Email Charter. Please take note. NNTR.