29 April 2019
Monday Comms Tips
I spent a lot of time in my inbox—I imagine many of you can relate. Over the years, I've gathered some helpful communication tips that I found improved my efficiency and happiness. Balancing my email time for me is an exercise in automating the right things, while maintaining the humanness of communications.
- Designate work time/admin time based on your energy/brain power. Now, I have a bit of a privilege here as I work independently. I answer emails on Monday, when I struggle to focus on deep-thinking work. I do deep work mid-week. I take intro/mentorship calls later on the week when I'm wrapping deadlines.
- I only respond to most bulky emails on Monday. I have to set this boundary, or else I find myself distracted all week long. I get stuck in the email cog.
- You're not obligated to tell someone all your free times. Protect your you time.
- Include pronouns in your email signature. If you're not sure of someone's pronouns, ask. Until you can ask, use gender neutral pronoun they/their/theirs and/or their name. Also be cognisant of accidentally outing people; always follow someone's lead and err on the side of uncertainty and asking 1:1 if you're unsure. If you mess up, apologise and fix.
- Stop apologising for 'the delay.' We're perpetuating this idea that people must respond within 24 hours. What a strain on our mental health, and what an unfair expectation to set upon everyone. If you must acknowledge the perceived delay, reframe as gratitude or regret: "Thank you for bearing with me as I worked on my response." Or, "I regret it's taken me over a week to respond."
- For bulkier emails, employ some information design. Create bulleted lists, bold action items. End emails with what you need to proceed.
- Review your response to makes sure you answered all questions asked o f you. So many extra emails are caused by not reviewing the original email fully.
- For intros, always ask permission of both parties before reaching out. Consent, always.
- Provide context (websites/LinkedIn) and personal connection to encourage they do a bit of research and a clear reason you intro'd them.
- Move the introducer to bcc: (with a note). Saves their inbox and lets them know you responded. As the introducer, remind folks "You can move me to bcc: when you respond.
- Include your pronouns when introducing yourself. "Nice to meet you all. I'm Tatiana (she/they pronouns work for me)." Set a precedence.
- Offer times early in an email thread that will end there. I find that preemptively offering times avoids the empty back and forth of "when are you available?"
- Include timezones. Use a tool like Spacetime to help you find amenable times without tying your brain into a knot.
- To confirm a time, send a calendar invite. (I also frame language in earlier comms, so it's not an unexpected invite, which is jarring. Include time zones and make sure your calendar time zone is set.
- Offer non-call alternatives when appropriate. When someone suggests a call as a default, and it doesn't feel necessary, I usually suggest another non-call way to solve it. For example, sometimes starting a document with initial ideas, or reading through something, etc, is what is warranted. I'll include a line like, "If we both still feel a call would be necessary after this, happy to schedule a call with an agenda to make the most of both our time." Despite being an ambivert, I find that calls drain me quite a bit. I also try to remind the other person that it's their time, too.
- Save a list of questions and answers in your notes document. I find that I write the same questions and answers over and over, especially with scoping. Having a resource to copy and paste from is helpful.
- When writing those answers, make sure you clearly highlight things you need to customise. It can be offputting to receive form responses.
- Before asking a question, see if you can find it somewhere else, then confirm. For example, if you're about to ask someone their Twitter handle, try to do a preliminary search first.
- Protect your expertise. Many people will reach out to ask for free advice and not immediately offer budget, even when they have it. I am always here to support mentorship and provide free advice to community members, especially newer and underrepresented folks. However, where I draw the line if if someone is making money off of my expertise. Phrasing I've found success with is, "I'm so flattered by this request! While I am happy to offer help to not-for-profit, community-focused events, I do ask for a fee when working with for-profit organisations like yours. The fee is..."
- Maintain a spreadsheet with all your speaking events, with dates, honoraria, speaker bios, talk abstracts, and slide links. I promise it'll come in handy.
- If you get asked the same questions over and over for speaking/scoping, consider making a speaker bio and/or Frequently Asked Questions page.