Matt Gemmell: Managing Email Realistically

I really enjoyed this guide to not wasting time on email. It’s funny, accurate, and it acknowledges the worst part of email – that people will just send you a little note and expect you to do stuff for them.

I particularly enjoyed this bit on how to respond:

People are terrible at clearly outlining what they want from you. They waffle, and then when they do get to the point, they’re vague. This wastes your time - but you can turn it to your advantage. Almost any email that requires you to do something will have made assumptions of some kind; you should immediately ask for clarification on at least one of those assumptions. This has several wonderful effects:

  • It gets the email out of your inbox. You replied, so archive it. Boom.
  • You give work to someone else who just tried to give you work. Vengeance.
  • You show yourself to be detail-oriented and precise. And, someone who’s vengeful and not afraid to hurt other people. All of those are excellent and useful additions to your reputation.

Am I doing it wrong?

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