I often have similar anxiety. After all, if I teach email skills for a living, don’t all of my emails have to be “perfect?”
Thankfully, the answer is “no.”
What I told these readers (and remind myself) is that email perfection isn’t the ultimate goal. Perfection is a tyrannical standard, and seeking it with our daily emails can even be counterproductive. Although I’m a huge advocate of being thoughtful with our email habits, if we spend too much time agonizing over every message, we’ll never get anything done.
Instead, our goal is to establish a pattern of excellence. It’s a balance of aiming for perfection but not beating ourselves up when mistakes happen. When we establish a pattern of excellence:
1. Most of our emails will be really good. We’ll have a spot-on subject line, include the right people, write a solid message, and choose the appropriate level of responsiveness.
2. We’ll nail it when the stakes are high. Yeah, in these cases, it’s ok to agonize over the email. Whether it’s establishing a new relationship or an important update to the boss, we do want the email to be perfect. We’ll carefully craft every sentence and use the most stringent level of proofreading.
3. At some point we'll send an "email lemon," but our readers will cut us some slack. Instead of silently cursing us, they’ll just assume we’re having a rough week. Plus, because we’ve cultivated such good email habits, our lemons are more likely to be smaller issues like delayed responses or typos – not ugly, relationship-damaging mistakes.
So go ahead – shake off some of that stress.
Just don't forget that our emails are so much more than mundane office tasks. They directly impact our effectiveness, our personal brands, and our relationships. While absolute perfection isn't the goal, we also shouldn’t settle for anything less than a pattern of excellence. Every email is a chance to be better, so start your pattern today!