One minute can make the difference between your getting fired, infuriating an investor, ticking off every employee in your company, or breaking up a relationship and your impressing a client or business partner and avoiding looking foolish (or worse). It involves a simple rule for every new email you write.
Here's how it works:
Wait 60 seconds before clicking Send on a new email. That's right--for every message. It doesn't matter if it is a short paragraph about your vacation or a longer email to your entire company. In that 60 seconds, you'll follow a few simple steps to make sure the email is exactly what you want to say, how you want to say it, and whether you are sending it to the right people.
Here's how to follow the rule.
First, after you compose the email, do one final check through and read everything. Note that, if the email you are sending is longer than about a page, don't even send it as an email. Create a document and make everything perfect, then send it as an attachment. Recipients don't like getting horrendously long emails but they'll put up with a document.
Otherwise, look for any spelling or grammar errors. Make sure you are communicating effectively. In the 60 seconds, if you determine the email is not ready, stop and flesh out the idea and reword phrases as needed. Normally, you can do just a quick check to make sure you sound professional. Also, remove anything that might sound harsh or angry. Your recipient should never wonder if you are in a bad mood. Even if you are sending only a few paragraphs, always check your prose. It should take 30 seconds or less per email to do a quick scan for word choices, tone, and any errors.
Next, check to make sure the person receiving your message is the right person. Quickly double-check to make sure you are not sending the message to the boss, that you meant to copy a few extra folks, and that you put accounting in a BCC. It's a spot check for every email to make sure it's going to the right people. It helps avoid email embarrassment.
OK, that's it. Once you check the text and the recipients, you can click send.
You might wonder: Why bother? If you've been processing email for a long time like me, you might be a whiz at firing off emails in rapid succession. The 60-second rule is for you. It's designed for people who are really good at sending emails. Here's why it's so helpful.
For starters, email has become our primary form of communication. I might gripe about that and hope it changes, but it's the reality of business today. It's become an even greater reality as we punch out messages on our phones and tablets. Because it's so easy to send multiple emails in a row, it's also easy to forget to look your best. The 60-second rule helps improve your image. It's a way to make absolutely sure the message communicates what you want to say in a way that makes sense and without any errors.
It's also an insurance policy. During the 60 seconds, you have a short period of time to gather your wits and calm down. It's a way to prevent yourself from sending angry emails. If you always wait 60 seconds, you can revise and rework the text. It's helpful even if you use the Undo Send feature in Gmail or recall a message with Outlook because you are reading over your own text, not just reversing your decision to send the message. It means you are seeing email in a new light, sending messages that are clear and helpful, not rushed or sent in anger, and always with the correct recipients.
Will you try it? Spend the next hour or so composing a few emails and follow the 60-second rule and see if it makes a difference in how you communicate. You might feel frustrated at first having to wait a full minute. Make it a habit. Then, let me know if it works.