This piece was originally posted in January 6, 2016.
Sometimes when things get busy, I have a harder time keeping my email inbox nice and slim like I like to. I’m an inbox zero person.
I’ve recently got back on top of my personal and professional inboxes. It’s feeling great, and it reminded me of the expectations I like to set for myself and for others around how I deal with email.
I first created this set of expectations a year or so ago and shared it with the teams I’m responsible for at work. They’re intended to set the stage for a healthy relationship to email, and relieve the sense that anyone might feel a slave to their inbox.
A day or so. My expectation is that during normal work hours, when you’re not on vacation, you’ll probably get back to me same day or within 24 hours. I strive to do the same for you.
Acknowledge receipt & response timing. If something looks important and you’re not going to be able to get to it for a few days, simply acknowledging receipt & set expectations.
Flag as urgent. If something’s urgent, put it in the subject line. Flag as URGENT. Same goes for FYI and things not needing a response. If you don’t need anything back, say so. (And if you do need something back, say so.)
Work-hours email. I don’t expect responses in off-hours. If I’m emailing on the weekend, late at night, or early morning, that’s just me using my time in a way that works for me. If you are checking your work email then, don’t feel obligated to reply.
Email ≠ realtime. I don’t expect real-time email communication from you, and likewise don’t expect it from me.
Text in emergencies. If something is super-duper urgent, you can always text me.
So there you have it. I encourage you to give ’em a shot. I’d love to know how they work out and if you have any other expectations of your own.