Why I stopped signing emails: “Please advise”.

Email is a fantastic tool that enables asynchronous communication across the globe. However, we all suffer from the too much email.

For two months, I have tried to stop signing emails with an open-ended phrase like “Please advise, or What do you think? (WDUT?)”.

Why? Ambivalence

  1. Unclear expectations: The recipient is often overwhelmed what he can, should, and needs to advise on. Should he advise on the whole email or something specific? How long should the respondent spend advising me (5 minutes, 30 minutes, 5 hours?)
  2. No Deadline: There is no deadline included in “Please advise” so the recipient is not told by when he must advise the sender.
  3. Open-ended: Few people enjoys responding to emails. Please advise is the lazy mans way of phrasing a question, and it’s similar to “forwarding an email and writing “WDUT?=what do you think”. The phrase forces the recipient to “guess” what the I intended:
    1. Does my [manager, co-worker, ceo, parent, colleague, sibling, etc.]  want me to write all my thoughts, in a well-edited, concise email that will take me at least 2 hours to compose and they’ll skim it in 3 minutes?
    2. Does my [manager, co-worker, ceo, parent, colleague, sibling, etc.] want my 30 second response? Can’t be, the email chain will take a few minutes to read and comprehend.
    3. Does my [manager, co-worker, ceo, parent, colleague, sibling, etc.] want my 15 minute response? Read the email chain, form an articulate opinion on the matter of the email, and then respond cogently all in under 15 minutes? I wish I could do this.

What is a better alternative? Here are some ideas that I’m actively testing

  1. Write clear, direct emails where questions that require answers are highlighted.
  2. Propose answers to my questions so that the recipient can choose A/B/C.
  3. Articulate the amount of time you want a colleague or friend to spend on a question and the deadline for a response.
  4. Block out time in the middle of each day to respond to email from my keyboard where I will respond faster.

    I’d love to hear your suggestions! 


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