Actually, these three tricks replace one trick from the old days of voice recorders, mini-tapes, and typists: I create some artificial distance between what I have planned to write and what I finally send out.
And if this works for me, it may also work for you.
Here is where I am coming from.
This Was Writing Letters In The Last Century …
This is where I am coming from: in the old days of the last century, we have dictated our messages into voice recorders that came with small tapes that had holders that could be clipped on paper files (click here). The recorder systems were and still are expensive (click here), but could be repaired an unlimited number of times. Each case had a paper file and the paper files with the corresponding tapes were sent to a typists, usually a lady, in a typist room. After a few hours or on the next day, the paper file came back, with a letter inside that had the words that you have dictated on that little tape when you sent it there. You just needed to sign that letter and out it went. Or you made some corrections that went back to the typist room, and then you received your revised letter that could be signed for sending it out.
I found all this quite efficient, and also safe, because a letter only went out when I looked at it again, with some time distance and also some thought distance between me and my original words.
I have never written any letter in my lifetime that did not need an amendment. Small things can be added by hand before signing, like these missing commas. Big things needed the letter being re-typed. Good relationships with the typist room ladies were of utmost importance.
… Versus Writing Letters Today
Today everything is different. Emails have replaced letters.
How often did you regret to have sent out an email? I see that on a daily basis. Recalled emails that could not be recalled. Email chains that are spoonfeeding me piece-meal messages. Unclear wordings. Forgotten commas became something that is so minor that nobody asks for that mistake anymore.
I believe that these are the signs of a culture where the depth of thought is sacrificed for the sake of speed. Confusing “motion” with “speed” and promoting “appearance” over “content”.
Law firms and patent and trademark agencies can tremendously improve by reviving some of the old values. And the right clients are willing to pay a premium for that.
Changes Needed For Better Quality
Here is what you need to change.
Simulate the old times and create some artificial distance between what you have planned to write and what you finally send out: never send out an email message with a substantial content without having double-checked it again, best would be only on the next day.
Trick #1: I only fill in the email addresses of the recipients when I am sure that I really want to send that email out.
That way, Outlook does not let me send out these emails, and they will sit in my “drafts” folder until I have them completed.
Trick #2: I let my emails sit at least overnight in my “drafts” folder, and I have a hand-written list of recipients that tells me who is waiting for an email. Post-it notes work best for that.
The next day, I approach these email drafts with a fresh mind. And I read them as if they were addressed to me and whether all my questions are answered, and whether I have included hints to what could be further questions.
That improves my emails tremendously, both with respect to clarity and completeness.
Trick #3: I put my emails into the outbox and let them sit there until I hit the “send/receive” button.
If you do so and if you remember that you have forgotten something in an email, you can always go back to the outbox and amend that email. That protects you from sending a follow-up email with what you have forgotten in the first email.
This is how you do that: disable the “Send immediately when connected” in outlook.
Under Outlook options-> Advanced->Send and receive, make sure “Send immediately when connected” is unchecked:
I was so often so happy to have this option that I cannot describe how important this is for me. That is the first option that I set whenever I activate a new computer.
Deactivate that Outlook option “Send immediately when connected” now.
Martin “Better Emails” Schweiger