Get Faster Responses to Your E-Mails

Church leaders can spend as much time as corporate leaders communicating via e-mail, and at times some will complain that it’s difficult to get a quick response. Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, says sometimes the recipient is at fault, but sometimes it’s because of the way the e-mail was presented in the first place. He makes the following suggestions to leaders who would like to get faster e-mail responses:

  • Put the person’s name in the “To:” field. Hyatt says those who have overflowing inboxes look at messages on which they are cc:d as “information only.” If you expect someone to respond to you, he says, make sure you’ve addressed the e-mail to them.
  • Limit your message to one subject. “The key is to make it easy for the recipient to respond now.” Hyatt says he follows David Allen’s “two-minute rule” when processing e-mail: “If you can do the action requested in the e-mail in two minutes or less, do it immediately. If not, put it on your to-do list for later.” Listing several subjects in a single e-mail can make it easy for your recipient to procrastinate. Hyatt prefers sending multiple e-mails with a single, distinct subject than one e-mail with multiple subjects.
  • Say what you need in the first sentence. Put the action at the top of the message, and let the recipient decide if they need more information. “Don’t make the recipient wade through a long e-mail to get to your request,” advises Hyatt. “The other day I got an interview request…the sender went on and on about their company history, market demographics, circulation, etc…I almost deleted it. Don’t make this mistake. Get to the point.”
  • Keep the message short. Hyatt likes to keep his e-mails to five sentences or less. If it needs to be longer, consider another method of communication.
  • Tell them if your request is urgent or time-sensitive. Hyatt says people often need help prioritizing, and most want to be helpful. Tell them it is urgent, and most will try to comply. But he warns that “if you do this too often, people will begin to ignore you.” He says just tell them exactly when you need it, so they can plan accordingly and follow-up properly.

Hyatt says these tactics won’t work with folks who are “truly incompetent,” but at least if you use them, you can say you’ve done all you can to minimize e-mail response time.


About Jim

I'm currently the Communications Director for Missouri Operation for Vigorous Evangelism [MOVE] A Church planting ministry located in Jefferson City, MO. I believe that the church is the primary means through which God works in a community to love and redeem it. Here at MOVE we’re discovering new ways to be used for this purpose as God leads us and lights His path for us. As God forms this organization and shapes it for a new kind of world I want to be right in the middle of what He’s doing, traveling on this road of a disciple’s journey.

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