A Brief Guide to Being Bad at Email

I thought about email a lot over the past few weeks. Every morning, I watched messages trickle in and pile up. My replies were sporadic. I scanned the incoming to-dos with a mounting sense of unease.

I re-visited Getting Things Done and read the newest posts on inbox zeroing. I considered the implications of being bad at email. I read random books that have nothing to do with email since I had some spare time.

I wondered about email’s nature. Like how the usefulness of replying to any one email is inversely proportional to the amount of time it’s been in your inbox.

If an email could sit in your inbox for 4 months, and still be worth replying to, it must be special.  It’s a shame then that replying with such a delay is not considered a great compliment.

And about all those piling messages— I did nothing. Trying to get on top of my inbox felt as fruitless as watching Lakers highlights on Youtube.

So I watched Lakers highlights on Youtube.

Peak email.

It happens to most of us. Once or twice a year there is so much to do, so much people are asking of us, that the only thing to do is to re-consider your process.

And for all the GTDing, canning replies, inbox zeroing, time batching, and you name it I’ve tried on my end, I missed something totally obvious. What about sharing with people how to communicate with you effectively?

It was my friend Jodi who planted the idea in my brain. She updated her contact page to let people know what types of emails she’d like to receive, and her inbox improved.

I was tardy on a similar approach before— for years I was baffled by the uneven quality of many TMBA applications. It was very late in the game until I realized it might make sense to explain what I was looking for.

(Which makes me think briefly about my entrepreneurial mistakes: it’s common for me to suspect I’ll learn from them, but it might be a better bet to plan on repeating them and plan accordingly).

Putting energy into your contact form is a great idea even if you don’t have a ton of email volume (this isn’t strictly a volume issue, it’s also a quality issue)– perhaps you could do more to encourage people to reach out to you? Or guide their inquiry so there is less friction in getting to the sale?

So with a little inspiration from Jodi I’m going to create a TMBA contact page. I figure just like any process I can toss it up and evolve it as I see the results. If you have one that’s working I’d love to see it. I’ve posted my first draft below (would love your feedback), and once I double check everything with the team I’ll post it to TMBA as a permanent page.


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I love hearing from readers about the following topics:

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If you’ve read all that and want to say hi, you can reach me at Dan at Tropical MBA dot com.

If you have any feedback for me, or thoughts on email processing, I’d love to hear them!