Tim Ferriss: Two Email Autoresponses That Actually Work

Expert advice from the author of 'The 4-Hour Workweek'

Author and entrepreneur Tim Ferriss. (Photo by The New York Observer)

Author and entrepreneur Tim Ferriss. (Photo by The New York Observer)

Email is the single largest interruption in modern life.

In a digital world, creating time hinges on minimizing it.

The first step towards controlling the email impulse is setting up an autoresponse, which indicates you will be checking email twice per day or less. This is an example of “batching” tasks, or performing like tasks at set times, between which you let them accumulate.

In this post, I will share two of my own tried-and-true email autoresponses, one short and one long.

Your success with batching—whether laundry, phone calls, or email—will depend on two factors: your ability to train others to respect these intervals, and, much more difficult, your ability to discipline yourself to follow your own rules.

So what works?

Before my current examples, let’s look at a basic template from The 4-Hour Workweek. Readers have tested this one in 30+ languages:

Greetings, Friends [or Esteemed Colleagues],

Due to high workload, I am currently checking and responding to email twice daily at 12: 00 P.M. ET [or your time zone] and 4: 00 P.M. ET.

If you require urgent assistance (please ensure it is urgent) that cannot wait until either 12: 00 P.M. or 4: 00 P.M., please contact me via phone at 555-555-5555.

Thank you for understanding this move to more efficiency and effectiveness. It helps me accomplish more to serve you better.

Sincerely,

[Your name]

The above is simple but works. Furthermore, bosses respond better than you’d think. Here’s a real-world example.

Now, on to my current faves…

The short one assumes that anyone without contact info can wait. The longer one provides links so that I can ignore hundreds of email entirely.

Of course, adapt for your own situation and preferences.

No. 1 – Short and Sweet

[VARIANT ONE – WITH ASSISTANT]

SUBJECT LINE: IMPORTANT — Please Email [Assistant’s Name] if Urgent

“Hi All,

Due to other commitments, I’m checking email no more than once a week, often less. If it’s truly urgent (cannot wait a week), please call or email my assistant. If you don’t have her info, thank you for waiting until we get back to the inbox.

All the best to you and yours,

Tim

——————————————–
Invest in tech companies that I back (Past: Uber, Twitter, etc.)
https://angel.co/tim/syndicate

Q: Why is this email five sentences or less?
A: http://five.sentenc.es

[VARIANT TWO – WITHOUT ASSISTANT]

“Hi All,

Due to other commitments, I’m checking email no more than once a week, often less. If it’s truly urgent (cannot wait a week), please call my cell. If you don’t have it, thank you for waiting until I can get back to the inbox.

All the best to you and yours,

Tim”

No. 2 – Longer and More Comprehensive

SUBJECT LINE: IMPORTANT — Please Email [Assistant’s Name] if Urgent

“Hi All,

Sadly, due to deadlines, I am unable to read or respond to most email. Please don’t be offended, as this is true even for close friends.

If you genuinely need to reach me urgently (if it can wait a week, it’s not urgent) –
– If you have my cell phone, try and call or text me.
– Otherwise, please email [assistant’s email address].

For other contacts besides [assistant], please go here:
[insert “Contact” page URL from website]

Thanks very much for understanding!

All the best to you and yours,

Tim
P.S. If you are emailing about publishing or book marketing advice, here are the resources I’ll point you to:

BOOK MARKETING ADVICE

1) For a popular recap of my launch for The 4-Hour Body, which hit #1 New York Times, here is 12 Lessons Learned While Marketing “The 4-Hour Body.”

2) I also found Rick Frishman and Robyn Spizman’s book on book publicity helpful for my first launch.

3) All of the other advice I might give, probably more in many cases (as I can use
links) can be found here:
http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2014/02/04/how-to-get-published/

And here:
http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/category/marketing/

Hope that all helps!

Best,

Tim

——————————————–
Tim Ferriss bio: http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/about/

Invest in tech companies that I back (Past: Uber, Twitter, etc.)
https://angel.co/tim/syndicate

What About Yours?

Autoresponders are both an art (due to wordsmithing) and an evolving science, as complaint rates, percentage decreases in inbound email, etc. can all be tested.

PLEASE share your own findings and autoresponses in the comments below! Non-English autoresponses are also welcome. What has worked for you and what hasn’t?

However, thank you for NOT spamming the comments with a bunch of your website links, unless relevant, as is sometimes the case with FAQs, etc. Spam will be deleted.

For more examples—both good and terrible—see below.

Further Resources

Not-To-Do Lists, Drugs, and Other Productivity Tricks
The Best (and Worst?) Autoresponders of 2007
The 4-Hour Workweek Tools
How to Check E-mail Twice a Day… And Have Your Boss Accept It

This post first appeared on Tim’s blog, http://fourhourworkweek.com/blog/.