It’s been happening more and more. I get email responses from clients, from colleagues, from friends, and it’s clear that they haven’t actually read the email they’re responding to. They don’t answer the questions I’ve asked. They ask questions I’ve already answered. They ignore pertinent information.

Sure it’s frustrating, but even more so, it’s dangerous. It makes me realize that many, if not all, of us may be leading – and making decisions – with missing information. Or wrong information. Or no information.

We’re all going too fast. It’s a leadership epidemic.

And as a result, things take longer when we have to answer questions a second (or third) time. Miscommunication and misunderstandings happen. And happen again. Simply because we’re all going way too fast.

So how do we slow down? Here are five simple, but not easy, ways to go a bit slower – and surer – when going through your inbox.

  • Set aside a time to read emails – If you have a specific time allotted to emails, you’re more likely to pay attention to the emails and the details within the emails. You can even have an auto-responder let others know what your email time slots are.
  • Don’t multitask while you do it – Even if you’re somewhat skimming through your emails, focus on them and them alone. Diluting your attention will cause you to potentially miss what you need to capture and rush through specifics that others will think you’ve gotten. Eliminate distractions and force your mind to stay focused.
  • Set up a system to handle them – Delete the ones that can be deleted, but notice the ones that need noticing. Notice the details, and the facts, and find a way to capture what you need to know and remember – capture it mentally and perhaps electronically or, if you’re somewhat old school, on a piece of paper.
  • Go slower overall – When we’re rushing from spot to spot, and task to task, we get in the habit of speeding along. And of not paying attention. Build your “slowness muscles” by practicing going slower. Be aware of your surroundings. Stop and take a breath, and be present to the present. Pause between tasks, or conversations, or even emails, and make yourself slow down.
  • Check for understanding – Instead of skimming through emails, consider reading the important ones twice. Did you notice everything you were supposed to notice? Did you capture all the information? Do you know what you’re supposed to know, or do? Check your own grasp of what the email conveyed, and move (slowly) from there.

I’ve been slowly reading my emails recently, and noticing how often we’re all missing the main point of the email, or the details that are blatantly conveyed. It’s time for us all to go a little slower…and a little surer. And to save time, and trouble, in the long run.

How have you learned to slow down to go more surely?
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