Tuesday, May 15, 2007

You Have Mail...

How much time do you take to answer an email?

  1. Time is an illusion.
  2. My secretary prints it, brings it with the morning coffee, and I dictate an answer by 5pm.
  3. If your email doesn't end on dot edu you can still be lucky and get an out of office reply.
  4. If I don't answer within one day, your email drops out of the front page and you can forget about it.
  5. I take my BlackBerry with me to the bathroom and can answer one-handed while holding the paper in the other hand.

According to a survey by the Center for the Digital Future in Los Angeles, more and more Internet users believe that e-mails should be answered in a short time span. In 2006, 23.8% said emails should be answered as soon as possible (up from 21.3%) and 34.6% said within one day is fine (up from 32%). Two out of a thousand find it not necessary to reply at all. Interestingly, it's totally okay to answer an email within a week, but completely unacceptable to answer within 4-5 days.

[click to enlarge]


  1. At work, I get a few hundred emails a day, of which I handle a handful, delete a lot more and all the rest end up in an archive folder. After that, I pay attention only to those that are escalated.

  2. Yesterday, I got an email from the HR department about how to handle email correspondence efficently.

    However, this valuable content was hidden behind a link to some flash animation you usually are supposed not to click on ;-).

    Anyway, I haven't read it and now will never know how to do survive the email jungle... And I missed an opporunity to win an ipod...

    Best, stefan

  3. No no no no no! Unlike snail mail, email has no propagation delay. If it were always answered the same day, it would leave the participants with nothing to say, and no time to say it in.

    The recipient should read the email immediately. If time is not of the essence, then it should be placed into a "to reply" folder. After it has aged a week, or perhaps more, then it should be reopened and answered.

    If the person is one whom one would wish to exchange emails with once every two months, then the email should be allowed to age for a month, etc.

    Our ancestors did very well with propagation delays of several weeks built into their correspondence. One finds classic letters that were written in parts, over time, and only sent when enough paper was filled to make a proper letter.

  4. Hi Carl,

    Interesting suggestion. Just that I have noticed if my emails exceed three paragraphs, the recipient usually wont read it at all. Can be quite advantageous though. You have to tell something inconvenient, write half a page mention it in the middle, and write some friendly closing statements. Then say later I TOLD YOU SO! But yes, I too am a defender of snail mail, but only if hand-written. Best, B.

  5. I'm usually a terrible correspondent with email and even worse with snail mail. I'll find myself getting annoyed if someone doesn't answer my email, but then I have to remind myself that I do the exact same thing. ;-) I'm not self-disciplined enough to answer right after reading it. It's just like with other things. When I set them aside for later that later usually doesn't happen or the thought or question or whatever has become obsolete already.

    But hey, if I had a secretary to read them and take dictation, I might be better! ;-)

    funny word ver. = rxfwd

  6. Hi Rae Ann,

    yeah, I can relate to that. But that's not a problem of email-ing alone. I am generally specifically annoyed by those bad habits I have myself ;-) When it comes to email I have to admit I either answer immediately (within one day) or after a very long delay (if at all). Best,



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