Quick emails

There are two types of quick emails.

There’s kind where you can handle it in five or ten minutes and…

  • the job’s finished;
  • someone else can get on with their job, so you avoid becoming a bottleneck;
  • you can help someone out by being on-the-ball and courteous with a quick and efficient reply;
  • you can hand it over to someone else who can deal with it and forget about it.

In these cases, if you’ve already opened your email it’s probably worth just finishing the job. You’re already distracted from whatever else you were doing, and you’ll save far more time and energy by reducing mental overhead (you won’t be carrying another ‘to do’ on your growing list) and emotional friction (you’ll avoid feeling bad about yourself or the people you’re holding up) than you’ll spend on the task itself.

The other type aren’t quick emails. Often they’re asking for the quick summary of a long thought process that you haven’t worked through. I think the best way to deal with these is to work consistently to keep your house in order, to spend time on those thought processes, to do them well enough – and perhaps document them well enough – that you won’t have to revisit and revise them the next time someone asks you the same question.

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