This section title is probably no surprise for anyone who has been following my newsletter for a while. In a world of text messaging, Slack, and social DMs, I find the casual nature of everyday communication to be often more challenging than it is helpful, especially in a team setting.
There's no distinction between urgent and non-urgent messages. Important decisions get lost in threads and conversations that look more like a CVS receipt. In the end, people lose focus, consumed by a never-ending Slack exchange that goes nowhere. While at the same time, mission-critical questions get missed. They jump on Zoom to sort it out, and suddenly, the workday is over.
What I love about email is how it promotes slowing down and thinking.
But you don't.
You prepare what you want to say. You consider how you want your recipient to feel when reading it. You aim to strike the right tone. You try to deliver a clear message. You write, you re-write. Sometimes, you ask someone for a second opinion.
Getting involved in all kinds of moving parts on projects last week, I took to email to keep the team aligned and on track. I realized I'd been promoting the power of email among the team, noting how it would become contagious when people saw its power. It was time to practice what I preached.
After every meeting, I forced myself to write a follow-up within 1-2 hours, documenting key topics and decisions. I also captured follow-ups and delegated the next steps with deadlines. Sometimes these emails were long, but they were clear. They could also act as a reference for any future decisions or questions.
Throughout the week, key project team members who couldn't attend some meetings I was leading shared how helpful these emails were in keeping them aligned. In one case, a team member did research to prepare for our next meeting without talking to the team, not on Slack, not on Zoom, not even on email. By the end of the week, it was great to see others taking a similar approach, documenting decisions, and moving other follow-ups to email.
I ended up closing out the day at 9:45 pm on Wednesday. Writing an email was the last thing I felt like doing, but the alternative looked more painful. I knew that if I didn't take the time to capture my thoughts, the team would be ill-equipped to keep going. They'd end up reaching out on Slack, and if I didn't catch myself, my recap and follow-ups would end up spread across DMs. We may even get stuck in a back and forth for another hour!
Sending an email may seem simple, but it takes effort, and the lure of a sloppy, quick message on Slack is real. But once you get in the groove, the effort upfront is a game-changer, not only saving you time but everyone else time down the line.