When the question is ‘How fast should you reply to an email?’, the answer will often vary. The most common response is usually chalked down to ‘as soon as you can’ and ‘depends on how important it is’.
In the working world, email is looked at as an instantaneous medium. Once an email is sent, the sender is assured that within seconds it is in your mailbox ready to be read. It’s only a matter of minutes or hours before a response.
However, email etiquette has slipped in recent years and there are a couple of reasons for this. People’s roles do not entirely comprise of checking email. There is work to be done and sometimes email can become an interruption when you are busy. Newsletter subscriptions, multiple connections across numerous projects and global interaction in various time zones can often mean your inbox is sporting over 100 emails before you even get to work.
It is right around here that email turns into frustration, and people begin to avoid it. The problem grows as it becomes difficult to distinguish the important emails from the unimportant, causing delays in communication, set backs in projects and in many cases, damage in business relationships.
So how to do you ensure business etiquette when using email but avoid your inbox consuming you?
Trimming your mailbox
Unsubscribe from any newsletters that you became a part of, purely because you purchased a product, trialed an offer or interacted with the brand in some form but no longer need a connection to. It might only save you seconds that you would normally spend deleting these emails every morning, but the benefit here is that you actually begin to eliminate unimportant email clutter and this will later allow you clear focus on what is important.
Let others know of your status
If you are going to be away, make sure you have an ‘Out of Office’ message. If you’re going to have your head under a major project and don’t expect to check or respond to other emails, the above rule still applies. By having an informative message about your status in place, the sender is more likely to understand your situation and will not expect a prompt response.
Avoid the use of messages that state that you are busy but will ‘maybe, if you have the time, get back to them when it is convenient to you’. Either you have the time to respond to the email or you don’t – avoid the middle as this makes your message vague and will be perceived differently by each sender. People will understand if you can’t back to them when you’re busier than usual, so make it clear that you won’t respond until a particular time.
Avoid responding for the sake of responding
If you do have a lot on your plate and can’t find the time to focus on an email and it’s message, come back to it. Remember, email isn’t just about you, there is another human being involved and they are going to act on your response so make sure it’s the right one.
By adopting a few habits and showing courtesy and respect to the people you communicate with, you will avoid misunderstandings and become a pleasure to communicate with. This could not only improve your relationships but also enable you to gain more business purely because of how you choose to communicate.