I have a love/hate relationship with email. On one hand, I like reading email, but on the other, I detest responding to email. Actually, I don’t hate responding to all emails. When I receive emails that are short and succinct, the probability of my replying in a timely manner increases. When I get a long multi-pager… Well, it might be two weeks or more (if ever) before I can summon up the time and energy to respond.
Why is that? Well, today, I read a post entitled “What Abraham Lincoln Taught Me about Email” that went a long way toward explaining this phenomenon. One anecdote in particular caught my eye:
“Your long despatch of yesterday just received,” Lincoln chided General George McClellan about a 10-page telegram sent in May 1863. Then the president required only three additional sentences to reply to the general’s endless essay.
I wonder if Lincoln got away with this because he was the president? Nevertheless, I could learn a few lessons from that. I agree with Lincoln that if something is so important that 10 pages has to be written, it would be better to meet face-to-face instead. In the meantime, if I get a multi-pager email, I will channel Lincoln and reply with brevity!