Email, like a lot of things in life, is about expectations. If you respond to email all the time and right away you’re setting the wrong expectations.
If you miss one for a day the person might get annoyed because they’re used to you responding.
But if you set specific times for email along with an email priority list you can set new expectations.
And as long as you stay within the new expectations you’ll keep people happy.
Answering Email All The Time
I’ve been extremely guilty of checking email all the time.
With smartphones, it’s so easy to check your email. It can be the first thing you do when you wake up. It can be the last thing you do before you lay down at night. You can check it every spare moment of the day.
That was definitely me. For me, it wore me down. After a while I couldn’t handle it anymore. The worst was checking it right before bed. On a very rare occasion there would be nothing new in the inbox. Then I could sleep peacefully. More often there would be a few emails that I could get to the next morning with no issue. But I would still think about them; wanting to just take care of them right away so there would be less to do in the morning.
Or there would be something that would maybe need immediate attention. When that would happen I would have to open up the computer and get to work. That would cut into sleep time and would back things up the next day because I would be tired.
It was also bad because our clients all over the world and the GBW Team would expect me to respond at least within a few hours of them sending their email (if not within an hour or sooner).
So then if I did want to get away for a day or a few days or something like that people would wonder why I wasn’t getting back to them.
The situation was bad for me, the business and for those I communicated with.
Checking Email During Certain Times Of The Day (And Days Of The Week)
A big step for me was not checking email after I shut things down each afternoon or evening. I usually all it a day around 4 or 5 PM. From that point on through the rest of the night I don’t check email no matter what.
That gives me a few hours to get away from work and get into personal and sleeping mode. Sleep has been better and the quality of emails has been better too.
And clients and the team are happier.
Now I try to respond to emails during a regular workday. From about 8 in the morning until about 4 or 5 in the afternoon. That’s when I respond to emails. And I try to get to each within 24 business hours.
This seems to have set new expectations with the people I communicate with. They no longer expect emails during off hours. They expect it within a day. They get it within a day. Everybody is happy.
I do think the key point here is consistency.
I was consistent with respond to emails all the time, but eventually it got to be too much. The quality of my emails was lacking. I was forgetting things and I was missing emails. That caused the people I communicated with to be unhappy.
Now I’m consistent about responding during set hours and days of the week. People are happier because the emails are more thought out and of higher quality. And I respond with an expected timeframe.
Being consistent is what people want. Nobody expects you to be superhuman unless you try to do that consistently and then start to get inconsistent because it’s too much to maintain.
I’ve had success with cutting back on the hours I email. It’s been great for me personally and great for the business. I know my fellow businesspeople out there could benefit from the same approach. I see people all the time checking their emails and getting worked up about work well into the evening hours or early in the morning.
Take a breather and put email away. You’ll be happier. You’ll do better work and your clients and team will be happier than they are now.