Why should you care about effective business emails? Because they save time, both for you and for the people you email. How do they save time? Because you write fewer emails when you are better at it. When you’re a competent and considerate writer of emails, you cut down on the unnecessary back-and-forth email traffic and the clutter in your inbox.

And your reward? You get back time.

Better emails = better brand + time saved
In my last post on business email writing, I talked about email’s effect on your personal brand at work, and therefore your career. That in and of itself is a solid reason to be better at writing emails at work. But saving time is equally important if not more so because time is a precious resource that should not be squandered. You never get time back. Ever.

How effective business emails save time
So what does it mean to write effective business emails? In his book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, Cal Newport says in Rule #4, Tip #2 “Do more work when you send or receive emails.”

If you use just this one tip, you’ll dramatically change the way you write emails at work, to write effective business emails that save you—and others—time.

Now, you might be thinking, “Wait a minute. You’re saying spend more time on each email and that will save me time? How the heck does that work?”

The answer is, you’re spending more time upfront to save time later.

An example of effective business emails
Here’s an example of spending more time on an email in order to save time later: This morning I typed an email in response to a request for a guest blog post. I took my time writing it. I asked about possible topics, word length, a due date and if there was anything else I needed to know before I started writing. The other person replied with answers to my questions plus other details I needed to know, including information about the titles and images they preferred. I then replied with the topic I would write about and when I would send it to them.

Four emails and we’re done because we used effective email writing skills. We don’t have to communicate again until I submit my guest post next week.

An ineffective time-wasting email on my part would have said only, “Sure, I’ll write a blog post. What are you thinking?” That could have led to several back-and-forth emails as we worked out details. Bleh. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

An example of an ineffective business email
To understand how this differs from an ineffective email, consider this email I recently received (and recently shared as an example on LinkedIn):

“Hi, Sharon. I’m emailing to see if you can help us with a project. Let me know.”

Do you see how this turns into wasted time for me and probably for the sender too? Now I have to take the time to write a reply to ask for information about the project—what it includes, the timeline, etc.—in order to answer the original question. Because honestly, I don’t know if I can help or not because I don’t know enough about the project!

And the sender has to take the time to send me a second email with those details, then wait even longer for my yes or no answer.

If the sender had taken only 5 more minutes to include details about the project, I could have responded yes or no to the email the first time. If the answer was no, they would know they needed to find someone else and they wouldn’t be holding up their project.

Why should you save time?
As I say in my ebook on business email writing, we are wasting 291 hours per year on unnecessary emails. Do you realize what you could accomplish in 291 hours?? You could sleep more, learn a new skill to give your career a boost, take on higher-value projects at work, cook from scratch, make it to your kids’ soccer games, start a garden…the possibilities are endless.

What’s not endless is time. Time is a precious resource that once used can’t ever be replaced. Do you really want to waste time on business emails when you don’t have to?

Because you don’t have to. You can learn to do better.

Sharon Ernst is a retired freelance copywriter now on a mission to improve the business and marketing writing skills of today’s workforce with her blog, newsletter and online classes.