Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to chat with some incredible people around the WP Watercooler. We were talking about strategies for writing/blogging more in 2014, and I wanted to further explain one strategy I particularly enjoy (and plan to implement this year).
Don’t send 1-off emails.
While this obviously doesn’t apply to client work, it can apply to the majority of contact-form submissions many of us receive. ”How do I do X in WordPress?” ”What advice do you have for someone doing Y?” These are usually generic questions that will inevitably come up more than once – so why not write a blog post instead of responding to email?
I’m a big fan of Scott Hanselman’s writing; one of my favorite of his posts is one about keystrokes:
Let break it down. I’m 36 and change. I’ll live to be 80, let’s say, and I can type 100 words a minute (but 50 of that is errors and the backspace key) so let’s say 50WPM. If I type for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year, for the next 44 years, that means there are 198M keystrokes left in my hands. Max. Period. And that’s generous; it’s likely 10% of that.
Let’s assume the average length of an English word is 5, plus a space, so six. That’s a ceiling of 168M more words I can type in my lifetime. Nothing I can do, short of dictation, or some new brain invention is going to create more keystrokes. I am I/O bound by my hands. The keystrokes they contain are finite. And this assuming my hands don’t give out.
Drink that in. OK. So now, next time someone emails you ask yourself “is emailing this person back the best use of my remaining keystrokes?” That includes both 1:1 and 1:many emails. You could even add a little hubris to it and say: “Does this person deserve the gift of my keystrokes?”
Instead, consider writing a blog post or adding to a wiki with your keystrokes, then emailing the link to the original emailer.
I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo for more than a few years now, so I have a pretty good idea of what it means to sit and write an obscene number of words in a day. As much as I enjoy writing, typing nonstop for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year for the rest of my life seems … painful. Let’s assume Scott’s “likely 10% of that holds” and we’re down from 168M words to ~17M words.
A NaNoWriMo novel is at least 50,000 words, so this means I’m limited to writing no more than 340 NaNoWriMo-length works in my lifetime. Writing only one book a year, and I’d live to be legendary! Factor in all of the code I write, the emails I write, the blog posts I write … and that number is far less optimistic.
I once installed a keylogger on my machine for no other reason to see how many keystrokes I used in a day. On a non-writing (coding) workday, I average 2-3k. On a writing (non-coding) non-workday, I average 8-10k. Hopefully this means I’m just a faster typer than Scott. But it still makes me second guess replying to every one-off “how do I” email I receive.
To blog more in 2014, I’m going to stop replying to these one-off emails entirely. Instead, I will craft a response post and email the link 1. Would your blog (and inbox) benefit from this strategy as well?
- If the topic is something of a private nature I will, of course, keep the response private as well. I’m referring specifically to “how do I approach this problem” emails. I get 2-3 of those a week. ↩