Before asking a question or making a request, think:

"Is there anything that requires further action in order for the outcome to be reached? Is there any context they are missing that they would need to action my request or answer my question immediately? Can I proactively answer questions they might have after reading my message?"

Replace Questions with Assumptions

Instead of asking, "Do you want me to do X before the meeting on Tuesday?" I use one of these two statements:

  • "I assume you didn't want me to do X before the meeting on Tuesday, so I will do it after. If that's not the case, please reply by COB Monday."
  • "I assume you want me to do X before the meeting on Tuesday. Expect an email from me an hour before the meeting."

By making an assumption, you save your coworker/boss time by not requiring their response. Over time, you'll get better and better at your assumptions and save lots of time!

Anticipate Replies with Answers

You wouldn't write code without exception handling; why not approach verbal/written requests the same way? E.g.

Could you do A? If B happens, do C. If C happens, do D. 

It might seem like extra work, but over time you'll anticipate exceptions and objections and will be able to handle them with no back-and-forth!

Stop Scheduling Meetings Manually

If I need to connect with someone, I give them my Calendly link, which syncs with all my calendars and offers them all the timeslots I'm available. If I’m meeting with several people, everyone can 'vote' on meeting slots to decide what works for everyone.

Final Thoughts

Some questions can be replaced with statements. When you do need to ask a question, add exception handling to reduce unnecessary back-and-forths!