Jeff’s email philosophy and etiquette

I like a lot of what was written in Cal Newport’s “A World Without Email” including the idea that email is best used for quick, short messages. Among other things, he suggests messages longer than a few sentences are not appropriate for email and probably deserve a phone call, Zoom call, meeting, etc. Therefore, often (but not always) my emails are typically quite short and do not have things like “Hi [Name]” or “Best, Jeff” nor do they tend to be very long. I hope you don’t take offense – I’m really just trying to save us all some time. I don’t expect your emails to be long or have those kinds of “Hi!” things, either.

Also, often the “point” of an email can get lost. So, sometimes I will use a format such as this:

“The Ask: Could please respond to X….

The Context: We had discussed doing Y, so it would be helpful if you told me…”

The nice thing about that format is that, for people who want context it is there and for people who don’t want or need it, they can ignore it.

If you would like to have a substantive conversation with me, great, let’s talk synchronously. Please check my availability here and then email me to request an appointment (via phone, Zoom, or in person) during a free time.

Finally, people sometimes wonder about when I send emails, when they can expect to hear back from me, etc. Here are some norms:

  • Sometimes, I send and respond to emails at odd times and/or on weekends. I do not expect others to do the same.
  • I try to respond to emails within two business days of receipt.
  • If you need a response within one business day, message me on Microsoft Teams.
  • If you need an immediate response, please call 919-966-7000 and ask for assistance contacting me.