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Email etiquette – provide time for the recipient

Posted Monday June 6th, 2011, 9:30 am by

Provide time for the recipient is the eighth principle of my Nine Ps of Smart Email Management charter.  Yet how often do we plan ahead and think about the recipient of our email?  One of the commonest stressors cited by workshop participants is ‘the sender never leaves me sufficient time’ for a proper, well thought out reply.

Yet it’s interesting that when asked to compare how quickly a reply is expected, most delegates say internal emailers expect an instant reply whilst customer’s and client’s time fame is often far less demanding.  In one organisation, senior managers said they were often very surprised at how quickly junior members of their team replied to their emails.  When was the last time email response time formed the subject of a management team discussion?

Some email etiquette quick wins to reducing the pressure on people are:

  1. Estimate how long it will take you to do the task.  That’s how long you need to leave the recipient.
  2. Check people’s calendar and plan ahead and around their schedules, for example when working on joint documents, presentations etc.  Talk and agree a realistic timescale before emailing.
  3. If it’s a regular request, create for yourself a recurring task well ahead of schedule (eg you need a month end-report).

If we are to chip away at this current debilitating culture of multitasking and feeling that everything needs our immediate attention, then email response times need to be discussed and a workable service level (response time) agreed.

This week’s email etiquette tips are on managing the response time.

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