When I recently moved, I made an amateur email mistake. I emailed close friends and family and included a bit too much detail in one single email.
In my rush to share, I forgot one of the golden rules of email: what outcome do I want from sending this email?
I wrote about the benefits of the move: advantages of my new place over the old place. Outcome desired? Come visit me! Or at least, congratulate me, although it’s a bit shallow to want such a thing.
I wrote about me not yet having internet installed so some planned video calls might be delayed and my availability over the coming week might be less. (Yes I’m cheap with my data!) Outcome desired? Preempting possible misunderstandings on upcoming availability.
I also wrote my new address near the bottom and advised they update their contact for me. Outcome desired? Keep this email as a reference until you update your contact.
Within three weeks of sending that email, two of the recipients specifically reached out to me to ask for my new address. One of them even did so by replying to the original email.
Clearly, I failed my recipients. I forgot about their busy lives and only thought of my own.
One might wrongly assume that email failed. No, it wasn’t the platform. Any other messaging platform would have done worse. (Ever look for an old text message from two weeks back after one-hundred more have been exchanged? Text messaging is a terrible reference platform.
Email has superpowers, one of which is unique subject lines. What I should have done is broken up the email into three separate ones, with different subject lines, each tailored to my desired outcomes.
1. Subject: Come visit my new place. Why I moved.
2. Subject: My availability reduced until February 10
3. Subject: New Address – Keep for reference and update your Contact for me.
This allows each recipient to ignore or archive each topic if not relevant or interesting to them, or to keep the ones that are actionable. It also not-so-subtly puts my desired outcome into their subconscious. It requires almost no additional work on my part to send three emails versus sending only one.
If I was worried about people getting three emails all at once, for those that have left email notifications turned on, I could use my email provider’s Delayed Send feature. Not familiar with Delayed Send? Here’s Fastmail talking about their recent introduction of it which they call Scheduled Send. More email providers are including this feature.
If your email provider doesn’t, you can also just send one email, and keep the other two as drafts. Then just log back in at some random times to send the other ones in the next day or so. Problem solved!
Bottom line is to always remember to keep your recipients’ time in mind, as well as your own desired outcomes in sending the email. One of the benefits of email is that it better allows for more reflective and contemplative communication.