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Mastering the Short Email

Mastering the Short Email

Mastering the Short Email

    “I apologize that this letter is so long. I did not have the time to make it short”

    — BLAISE PASCAL

    Good writers know that lean, vibrant language is almost always preferable to verbose, rambling writing. There is virtually no writing in the world so good that it can’t be made better by making it shorter. There are exceptions, of course – a contract needs to cover every possible potentiality, as does the text of an international treaty, but these documents are not really meant to be read, they’re meant to be enacted.

    When you send email, though, you most definitely mean for it to be read. By a person, even. With everyone’s inboxes bulging at the seams with unwanted come-ons, weekly newsletters, Amazon notices telling them about the latest product that people who bought whatever they bought also bought, status updates, listserv posts, and who knows what else, you face an awful lot of competition in your recipient’s inbox for their attention.Getting read is no small feat in and of itself; getting your reader to take action even a greater accomplishment.

    Writing well is one key – good prose is engaging and persuasive, no matter what the aim. And writing concisely is a big part of writing well. But writing concisely offers benefits on its own – the short email, particularly the email whose contents fit into the preview pane without any scrolling, has a much higher chance of gaining a reader’s attention than one that starts off with three pages about trivia.

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    This is what Mike Davidson figured out – if his recipients were half as slammed as he was, he figured they could use some relief from long-winded emails that ramble on and on in the guise of pleasantries. Instead, he committed himself to writing emails that were five sentences or less, every single time. To explain his decision, and to encourage others to follow suit, he created the site five.sentenc.es, which explains:

    The Problem

    E-mail takes too long to respond to, resulting in continuous inbox overflow for those who receive a lot of it.

    The Solution

    Treat all email responses like SMS text messages, using a set number of letters per response. Since it’s too hard to count letters, we count sentences instead.

    five.sentenc.es is a personal policy that all email responses regardless of recipient or subject will be five sentences or less. It’s that simple.

    You add the link to your email signature, dash off your five-sentence response, and let your recipient know that you are looking out for his or her time. (For the really daring, Davidson set up domains with even fewer sentences, down to two.sentence.es.)

    That’s all well and good, of course, but how can you make sure you say what you need to say if you limit yourself to five sentences? (Or even if you make the less-radical commitment to just write as short an email as possible?) You don’t want to leave anything out, right?

    Unfortunately, concision isn’t really taught or, to be honest, valued sufficiently. The huge novel is seen as more significant than the slim novella, the fat envelope more important than the thin one, the 10-page essay as more A-worthy than the 5-page essay. Teachers actually encourage wordiness, giving students instructions to write papers “at least” 500 words long, or 6 pages, instead of encouraging the shortest possible length in which you can fully express your thoughts.

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    Fortunately, super-entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki has offered a good guide to the five-sentence email (scroll down to point #9). He says,

    Whether UR young or old, the point is that the optimal length of an email message is five sentences. All you should do is explain who you are, what you want, why you should get it, and when you need it by.

    (Don’t ask me what purpose the seemingly out-of-place IM-speak serves there – let’s just chalk it up to 5 saved keystrokes.)

    If we take Kawasaki’s advice to heart, a good outline for a five-sentence email might look something like this:

    1. Who are you? This might be skipped if you already have a relationship with the recipient; otherwise, in as little space as possible, explain the relevant facts about yourself.
    2. What do you want? Explain why you’re writing the email, what you expect your recipient to do about it, and any relevant information they need to respond with the appropriate action.
    3. Why should you get it? Or, more to the point, why should they bother? Explain why your request is important, and if relevant, what’s in it for them.
    4. When do you need them to act? Open-ended requests get open-ended responses – that is, they get responded to whenever the recipient gets around to it. Be as specific as possible, so that your recipient a) has a sense of urgency, b) feels that their response is important to you, and c) feels inspired to act.

    So, for example, emailing a professor to ask for an extension on an essay (that must be at least 10 pages long…) might look something like this:

    Professor Wax,

    I’m a student in your Thursday afternoon anthropology class, and I’m having some trouble finding enough references for my term paper. Could you please give me an extra week to complete the assignment? I realize this might affect my grade, but I really want to give you the best paper I can, not just 10 pages of filler to make up for the missing information. Please get back to me by tomorrow morning so I can plan my writing schedule.

    Thanks,

    Ace Tuden

    Or an email to a colleague asking for data you need to finish a report might look like this:

    Dustin,

    I’m working on the report for our proposal to Acme, Inc. and really need the figures from the marketing analysis you ran. Could you get those to me by the end of the day so I can wrap this up? As you know, this report is crucial if we want to land that co-branding deal with Acme!

    Best,

    Emma Ployee

    Notice that both of those examples are less than five sentences – the point isn’t to shoehorn your work into a particular format but to write as little as you need to get the point across.

    Sometimes, of course, that means writing more than five sentences. Kawasaki’s advice presupposes that most email is requesting some kind of information, but that’s not always the case. But if you force yourself to think in terms of a five sentence email, and you go over a sentence or two, you will be far more effective than if you dash off a 2,000-word treatise.

    While emails are technically just text, just writing, and therefore could theoretically be as long as you care to make them, in reality longer emails are more likely to go unread , and less likely to be read carefully, as short ones. If more information is needed, a formal report, a webpage, a memo, or some other form of document is probably going to be better-suited to presenting it than an email. Send an attachment, send a link, or schedule a face-to-face meeting if necessary; don’t blast off a giant email that takes you hours to write in the vain hope that it will be read.

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    Last Updated on September 26, 2018

    10 Inspirational Books That Can Change Your Life

    10 Inspirational Books That Can Change Your Life

    If you want to change your life, you are going to have to do things differently. Sometimes you can look to inspirational books to create a positive change in your life. If you desire change, you are going to have to step out of your comfort zone. As Anthony Robbins points out in the quote below, you are going have to experience discomfort and pain in order to transform your life. Any change, whether it be an organisation or personal, can be a painful process. However, the rewards of going through the change process are priceless.

    “All personal breakthroughs begin with a change in beliefs. So how do we change? The most effective way is to get your brain to associate massive pain to the old belief. You must feel deep in your gut that not only has this belief cost you pain in the past, but it’s costing you in the present and, ultimately, can only bring you pain in the future. Then you must associate tremendous pleasure to the idea of adopting an empowering new belief” – Anthony Robbins

    There are two specific events that threw my life into a tailspin, where for a while there it felt like I was losing control. These two events were, the sudden and tragic loss of my parents, and being made redundant three times in eighteen months.

    With the third redundancy, I was at my lowest point in my life. I felt utterly useless. My self-confidence was at zero, and I could see no future for me.

    My life was turned upside down. I knew that I had to turn it around. I just didn’t know how.

    Then one wet Sunday afternoon, I picked up a book from my bookshelf called ,“The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown. I had this book for at least a year and had been meaning to read it, but hadn’t gone anywhere near a book for months.

    When I read this book, I decided that I needed to get my life back. I needed to learn how to heal and rebuild my confidence, as well as my self belief.

    So I started to read books. I read lots of books about inspirational stories on life, love, and happiness. Personal development and motivational books were full of information, tools, and strategies about how I could take control back and change my life. I would like to share with you the inspirational messages I got from reading these ten books that changed my life.

    Read these 10 books because I believe they will inspire you, motivate you, and show you how to take action and go change your life!

      Awaken The Giant Within

      by Anthony Robbins
      The inspirational message from this book is how you have the power right now to control how you think, how you feel, and what you do. Anything you want or desire in your life, you already have the power to achieve it.

      “You and I have that same power at our disposal every moment of the day. At the moment, the questions that we ask ourselves can shape our perception of who we are, what we’re capable of, and what we’re willing to do to achieve our dreams” – Anthony Robbins

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        Screw It Lets Do It: Lessons in Life

        by Richard Branson
        Reading other people’s stories about their journeys in life can give you better perspective of what the journey of change can be about. Richard Branson is into reinvention and as a result, he embraces change.

        This book will fuel your enthusiasm to give things a go. It will show you how to sort out the self-limiting beliefs that stop you from stepping up and taking on the challenge of change.

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        “As soon as something stops being fun, I think it’s time to move on. Life is too short to be unhappy. Waking up stressed and miserable is not a good way to live” – Richard Branson

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          The Art of Happiness

          by Dalai Lama

          There is not a person I know who is not in the pursuit of happiness.

          “The Art of Happiness” is a book that will encourage you to practice the discipline of self-reflection.The more you reflect on your life, the deeper you look into your inner self (your soul). This is where you discover what happiness truly means to you.

          Knowing what happiness means to you, gives you purpose. With purpose, you’ll have clarity, focus, and a vision. These are the foundations that will empower you to embark on the journey to change your life.

          “Both these people illustrate the essential point that happiness is determined more by one’s state of mind than by external events.” – Dalai Lama

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            The Four Agreements

            by Don Miguel Ruiz

            “The Four Agreements” are Don Miguel’s code for life.

            “The Four Agreements” provide an inspirational code for life, for the way you handle your relationships, how you behave, and how you communicate with others. If you want to change your life, read “The Four Agreements”. This book will show you how to attain a happy fulfilled life.

            “If you live in a past dream, you don’t enjoy what is happening right now because you will always wish it to be different than it is. There is no time to miss anyone or anything because you are alive. Not enjoying what is happening right now is living in the past and being only half alive. This leads to self pity, suffering and tears.” – Don Miguel Ruiz

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              The Magic of Thinking Big

              by David J Schwartz

              According to Dr Schwartz, to create change in your life and to attain all that you desire, you need to change your thinking and your attitude.

              The importance of preparing your mind and your thinking for the journey of personal change is the key message of this book.

              “Those who believe they can move mountains, do. Those who believe they can’t, cannot. Belief triggers the power to do.” – David J. Schwartz.

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                Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul: How To Create A New You

                by Deepak Chopra

                Deepak Chopra believes that personal transformation not only involves the mind, but also your body and soul. According to Chopra, you cannot transform your mind without transforming your body and soul.

                Reading this book will encourage you to think about the potential energy force and power you hold within you. This energy grows when you are connected and aligned to your mind, body, and soul.

                “The key to transformation is that you create the change you want to see in yourself.” – Deepak Chopra

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                  The Greatest Salesman In The World

                  by Og Mandino

                  This little classic has been around since 1968. Have you ever wondered what truly successful people have in common?

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                  This book doesn’t really tell you how to be a great salesperson. It will; however, give you some fantastic tips on how to be an entrepreneur, how to self-motivate, and how to think like a successful person.

                  The underlying message is the power of positive thinking – that you become what you think, say, and do. This book has great tactics for those of us in the process of change.

                  “My dreams are worthless, my plans are dust, my goals are impossible. All are of no value unless they are followed by action.” – Og Mandino

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                    Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

                    by Richard Carlson

                    This book helps you to manage the small stuff in your life that is usually creating the most pain in your life. This very supportive book is full of great practical suggestions on how you can live a more joyful and peaceful life.

                    “True happiness comes not when we get rid of all of our problems, but when we change our relationship to them, when we see our problems as a potential source of awakening, opportunities to practice, and to learn.” – Richard Carlson

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                      Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard

                      by Chip & Dan Heath

                      Have you ever tried to lose weight or get fit and never reached your goal? You know that you have to make changes in your life, but you don’t know how?

                      If you are nodding in agreement, then you need to read “Switch“. If I had to recommend one book that shows you how to create and maintain lasting change in your life – then it would be “Switch“.

                      In this book, Chip and Dan share the Secret as to how you can create and sustain change in your life.

                      Hint: It has something to do with knowing how to “Direct The Rider”, “Motivate The Elephant”, and “Shape the Path.”

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                      This book, without a doubt, will show you how to change your life.

                      “When you’re at the beginning, don’t obsess about the middle, because the middle is going to look different once you get there. Just look for a strong beginning and a strong ending and get moving.” – Chip & Dan Heath

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                        The Gifts of Imperfection

                        by Brene Brown

                        Do you ever feel that you are just not worthy enough, intelligent enough, or courageous enough to live a fulfilled happy life?

                        Do you have secret dreams that you hold deep inside of you that you don’t share in case someone thinks they are silly? Or are you too scared to follow your dreams because you fear that you may fail?

                        Brene Brown’s book, “The Gifts of Imperfection”, will show you how to find your courage, as well as rediscover your self-belief and self-worth.

                        This is the book that will get you prepared to embark on your journey of change. “The Gifts of Imperfection” is about you learning how to let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are.

                        “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy — the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” – Brene Brown

                        These 10 books were key to helping me change my life. I rediscovered hope for my future. I found my courage, strength, and my self-belief. I hope that by reading these books, you will find the same inspiration and motivation to take up the challenge and change your life.

                        “If one reads enough books one has a fighting chance. Or better, one’s chances of survival increase with each book one reads.” – Sherman Alexie

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