The Unreturned Email
Allowing for the vagaries of the spam filter, the legitimate email which goes unanswered is truly an onerous thing. Simply put, every email which is not a blatant and shameless instance of advertising ought to be responded to. Further, such emails ought to be responded to within a day.
What possible excuse is there for doing otherwise? When one writes to a large organization, one should expect a thoughtful response. When one attempts to contact a particular individual, even if said party is unknown to the sender, one deserves a response, however dismissive.
If one’s volume of correspondence is too large to handle personally, with speed, courtesy and respect, then one must hire help, outsource, or set up a clever autoresponse which is, in the least, a lukewarm shoulder.
In short, if the sender expects a response, one must be given.
Triage and prioritization of the inbox are necessary, to be sure, but there cannot be a folder titled “Will Respond To If I Get Time,” or “Maybe I’ll Answer, Someday.” Surely, in either of these cases, much of the folder could be committed to flames: the reply will never come.
For the man who hates email, who is overburdened by notifications on his Blackberry or his desktop, there is a simple solution…get rid of the damn thing, or learn how to use it properly. Better to not email—impossible as this may sound— at all than to give offense.
Practically speaking, if a man is going to respond and respond appropriately to all emails which are not either officially or unofficially spam, he must set aside times during the day to attend to his inbox. Those who are far smarter than I find the early morning the best time to read and respond to emails.
How much time ought one devote to the task? As much as it takes, simply put.
Though I think he’s more of a circus promoter than a solutions man, Timothy Ferriss, author of The 4 Hour Workweek recommends setting up an autoresponse message to all emails stating that one checks emails once a day and response to all emails first thing in the morning.
Consider your methods. Ponder the best ways to respond to legitimate emails. Whatever the approach, be sure to respond. When one doesn’t respond to an email, a surrogate response is issued. At best, that response is “You sir (or ma’am) and your email are not important enough to prompt a response from me.” This is not a message a gent can ever afford to send or one he ought to ever be comfortable with.
Off with you, sir. To your inbox.