Monday, February 16, 2009

Tweet it...on Email

If you're like me, an average workday includes several meetings, persistent deadlines, and hundreds of emails. Our time is limited, so lengthy emails that look more like novellas tend to be acted upon after more succinct messages.

What if our email behavior reflected the brevity of Twitter, which requires each update to be 140 or fewer characters? Or, to allow room for salutations and closings, let’s double that length to 280 for email. It would force us to get to the point sooner.

Try it yourself:

  • Experiment for any length of time, with all of your emails or just a subset
  • Discipline yourself to place pertinent issues, deadlines, and action items first

But what happens when you're asked a question that requires a longer answer? Let's look at a fictional example: You have led a cross-functional project to completion and are asked by your team to conduct a review of the project's critical success factors, best practices, and areas for further research, and to report to the team via email.

This could easily be detailed in an email that spans several screens, or it could be condensed into this 153-character note:

To: Widget Improvement Project Team

From: You

Subject: Project Post-Mortem Review


Thank you for your participation in this project. I have compiled the post-mortem review notes into our internal wiki. Please contribute your input by CoB Friday.



Note the difference this makes in your productivity. Are people responding to your emails more quickly? Are you receiving shorter, to-the-point emails from someone else who is taking the challenge?

If you're finding yourself with extra time on your hands, I recommend joining a conversation on Twitter.