“Thou shalt reply to every email” isn’t really the commandment most of us think it is. How many times have you sent an email to someone only to receive a reply saying “thanks”. If you’re a polite and well-brought-up Yorkshire lad like me, the temptation is to write “You’re welcome”. So far, I have resisted this fearing that I’ll receive a reply saying “the pleasure was all mine”, but the temptation remains….
The email inbox is up there with action points from meetings, completing tax returns, and inviting the in-laws to dinner as one of life’s more oppressive monkeys on our back; something to nag away at us, give us indigestion and feed our guilt complex. If you read about strategies for handling email, you’ll find these two rules expounded:
a) If you’re working efficiently, you can read, file and/or respond to every email you read
b) Non-response is unacceptable where an email implicitly or explicitly asks for a response.
Considering the first of the above decrees: I first saw email in 1995, and I think it would have been around 1997 when my email inbox reached a volume at which it became largely unmanageable! My inbox is now TB41P (too big for one person), and anyway, work gets in the way.
As for the second of the above statutes, I think it’s a hangover from the pre-email era (PEE), as an acknowledgement that the person who had sent the letter (this is a piece of paper with squiggles written by a pen. A pen is an instrument …. Oh never mind) had actually gone to some trouble and expense writing the letter and envelope, stamping it, and trudging to the post-box! That’s almost heroic and clearly deserves a response. But in order to accomplish this level of courtesy today, we have to give up personal time swatting emails with our smart phones on the train and at home because there’s just not enough time in the working day. And don’t we all love the après-holiday backlog?
I don’t know the answer, so I’ll leave the question out there and you can email me if you do. I promise to respond. But here’s an out-of-office message suggestion I read recently which, although not recommended as it’s probably professionally suicidal, made me smile.
Due to the volume of email I receive, I no longer personally review every message. If you are interested in learning more about why I have decided to set limits on my email time, you can read this [link to their blog post]. If you do not receive a further reply within 72 hours, please assume that I have had to focus on other professional or personal priorities at this time. Thank you in advance for your understanding.
Rant over. I won’t even start on why we actually type in our names at the bottom of an email reply when it already has an automatic signature and anyway should be obvious from whom it came…….