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Email etiquette – time to respond properly to emails?

Posted Wednesday August 31st, 2011, 9:00 am by

How often do you feel people leave you sufficient time to respond to an email? Results from client projects suggest nearly half of us feel that people do not leave sufficient time to respond properly.

Time to respond

To participate in the full survey with a chance to win a free copy of ‘Brilliant Email’ – click on this link ‘Time to Respond’ survey.

Not being left suffient time to respond can be quite challenging especially when a substantive response is needed which requires thought and perhaps some background research.    Why do we leave other people so little time to respond?  Is it:

  • Poor planning
  • Peer pressure
  • Email overload – we miss key emails and then pass the problem down the food chain
  • Bad email etiquette
  • Corporate culture – always working to tight time scales, under pressure and on the edge

Whatever the reason, unreasonable expectations up the email stress on the person of whom we ask for a quick response.  Further the pressure to responde often results in costly mistakes.  For example, we admit to errors, give wrong facts, commit to deadlines and tasks which are not achievable etc.

What can be done to change the culture and make time for people to give an adequate reliable response?  First and foremost, ask yourself how long it would take you to respond.  Now double it (as we always over estimate our personal abilities) and that is the time you need to allow the other person to respond.  That is good email etiquette.

Second as the recipient, to take the heat out of the situation, decide how quickly you can respond and if it is not within a working day, tell the sender.  Tell them when you will respond.  Don’t ask if it’s OK.  You decide and set the time frame.   Again use good email etiquette to manage the situation.

Third as a sender check people availablity beforehand and agree what is a reasonable response time.

For more tips and hints on ways to leave time for the recipient and as the recipient take the pressure off you to respond, follow me on Twitter.

Meanwhile what are your favourite tips on how to reduce the email overload and email stress created by those who expect an instant response?

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  • You forgot one……The person on the other end……IS…..A pain in the butt……!

    AND…NO….I don't want to follow you on Twitter…..Read'in this Blog from time to time is bad enough…..! :).

  • Nice post. I think a lot of people never actually set the expectation of when they want the receiver to complete the task. If using Outlook I find it useful to send someone a Task as opposed to an email when I'm looking for them to do something. I like this as I then have a reminder of all the things I've sent out to people and that I'm waiting on.