I never spend more than 5 minutes writing a work email. And when I manage other people, it’s a rule I ask them to follow, too. Ideally, each email will take 30 seconds to write.
You can turn the 5-minute rule into the 3-minute rule, the 1-minute rule, or the 30-second rule, whatever makes the most sense for the role you’re in. Here are some ways to do that.
1. Time yourself.
This one’s simple: Set a timer. Nothing fancy needed — just turn your phone timer to 5 minutes, and when it’s up, you’re done. No matter how much of the email you have left to write, you need to wrap it up. I’d suggest having a canned final sentence in case you run out of time. Some version of this should work:
I’ll stop there, but I’m happy to dive deeper or clarify anything as needed!
If you end up using your canned final sentence a lot, you’ll know you need to get better about getting to the point quickly, which will shorten your writing time.
2. Create canned responses.
Take a day to create email templates for messages that you send often. There are a couple of ways to do this:
- Use a text expander, an app that reads what you type anywhere on your computer and automatically replaces snippets of text with full-blown sentences and paragraphs. For example, you can set it so that every time you type thx, it automatically changes it to Thanks for reaching out! In more robust uses, you can have keywords for specific email templates—type the keyword and an entire email will appear.
- Use the canned response feature in your email provider. Both Gmail and Outlook have a canned response feature.
I currently have 28 canned responses in Gmail, ranging from a few sentences to long paragraphs outlining processes.
3. Use word count tools.
If your issue is that your emails are too long, get in the habit of using a word counter tool to stop yourself. Outlook provides a one-click way to do this, but you’ll need to use a Chrome extension like Word Counter Plus to get the feature within Gmail.
4. Ditch the email chain.
If you just can’t stop writing long emails, maybe it’s time to ditch email altogether. Try composing messages from within your CRM, using Slack with your coworkers, or automating your work to the point where email isn’t as much of a nuisance.