Alexandra Franzen wants to live in a world where emails are short, love letters are brave and every “thank you” note is scribbled by hand. Her refreshingly simple tips on writing, productivity + creativity (and everyday woes — like inbox-clearing) have been featured on Fast Company, Forbes, The Daily Love, The Huffington Post — and on radio programs from coast to coast. Get free workbooks + scripts to unlock your inner wordsmith at: AlexandraFranzen.com.
During my Baydin Word Wrangling Intern interview, I was asked about my email philosophy…and I immediately thought of Alexandra. (Shh…I kind of want to be her when I grow up.) After years of reading her work, I’ve internalized her belief that every email is a chance to add to or subtract from the love in the world. She’s also a Boomerang and Inbox Pause user, and I’m honored that she answered a few questions for our blog. Thanks, Alexandra, for being so generous with your time & wisdom!
What do you do?
I’m an author, advice columnist and ghostwriter.
You could say that my area of expertise is “communication.”People generally come to me when they want to get something — more sales, a book deal, a big opportunity — and they can’t find the magic words to make it happen.My stance is that powerful communication is always, first and foremost, about giving — not getting.To quote the brilliant Zig Ziglar, a personal hero of mine:
“You can have everything in life you want, if you’ll just help enough other people to get what they want.”
When I’m not working on ghostwriting projects or leading a workshop, I work on personal projects — poetry, song lyrics and other collaborations. Lately, I’ve been on an erotic fiction kick. Don’t tell my mom.
What role does email play in your work? AKA, why do you email?
Email is my world!
I use it to send out weekly musings to my mailing list … stay in touch with my clients, who are based all over the world … coordinate details for my workshops … good gravy. Everything!
How much do you get + send and how much time do you spend on it, on the daily?
I love + respect email, but I’ve made an active choice to spend a lot less time in my inbox.
These days, I get a lot fewer emails that I used to, because I’ve structured my life + business very carefully, directing people to “other places” (say, helpful spots on my website) rather than straight into my inbox.
Every day is different. Some days I don’t respond to emails at all. Other days, I’m in there for an hour or two. Just depends on what I’ve got cooking that week.
What tools or systems do you use to manage your inbox?
I love Inbox Pause, for those days when I just need some mental space.
I’m a huge fan of creating folders in my inbox — folders for specific workshops, for specific clients, for specific projects. That helps me stay organized. Initially, though, everything goes into one of two folders: NOW or LATER.
There’s very little that I choose to put in my NOW folder.
Because — at least in my world — very little is genuinely “urgent.”
I’m a writer, after all. Not a surgeon … or a firefighter!
How do you divide the personal and the professional in your inbox…if you do?
I don’t. I have one email that I use for everything. That may change, in the future, but for now the incoming stream is light enough that … it works.
Occasionally, I’ll say to my boyfriend, “Um, don’t send me anything too sexy for the next hour. My assistant is doing some stuff in my inbox…” Ha!
What inbox challenges remain for you, if any?
Honestly, I don’t think about email as a “challenge” anymore.
There are weeks where I feel a bit “behind,” but I like to remind myself:
“I’m not ‘behind’ on my email … I’m ‘ahead’ on my life!”
What’s the longest hiatus you’ve ever taken from email—and what was it like?
A couple of weeks. It was a total digital detox. No texting, email, Internet, nothing.
It felt eerie and quiet. Like stepping into a primitive forest, cut off from society. I loved it and hated it, all at the same time.
I think it’s a good idea to experience an email-free life, from time to time.
It’s like a nice, refreshing soul-exfoliation.
Favorite kind of email to receive? And…least favorite?
Favorite kind: “I’m writing to say that I like your work. It has been meaningful to me. Thank you. No response required.”
Least favorite kind: “I’m writing to request a big favor — even though we’ve never met — and by the way, I need an answer immediately.”
Let’s pretend we’re on HONY: If you could give one piece of advice to a large group of email users, what would it be?
You teach people how to treat you — which includes how to communicate with you.
When you write emails that are brief, kind and calm, you are modeling the kind of communication that you want to see out in the world. Over time, people will respond accordingly. They will mirror you.
This will change the quality of emails in your inbox, the quality of your day, and quite possibly, the quality of your life.
How does email make you feel, in one word?
(And humble. And hopeful.)
Thanks again, Alexandra! Here are a few (just a few!) of her posts you all will love:
- When you’re wasting time writing a two-sentence email and just can’t hit send
- 7 guidelines for writing emails that people actually want to read
- The 7 emails that nobody wants to receive – and how to answer each one, with love
- When you have to write an email to say “no” after already saying “yes”
- How to say “no” to everything ever
Now, tell us in the comments…how does email make YOU feel, in one word? How do you wish it made you feel?