Email like an adult. What?

March 20, 2017



You'd think we would do this less since it's supposed to be that phone calls require less time to reply than texts which require less time to reply than emails, etc., etc. Yet, with all of it centralizing to our phone, we still feel the pressure to reply right away.


Especially when you're trying to draw lines of a work-life balance, you can feel pressure (to reply) and guilt (when you don't) when you receive an email on the weekend - even though email is supposed to be an info sharing tool with less urgency, and therefore you should be able to reply to it on Monday.


Emails can also be bulky compared to texts. You have different email providers, each with different settings; you have different users, each with different levels of understanding with their providers and settings lol. We are all very busy, many of us (due to capitalism, the need to have money, and the need to be more efficient and cut costs to bring in more money) are doing the work of multiple people, still as one person. We do not have time to get sucked into the rabbit hole of email. Email is supposed to help us do our work, but often, to go through email is work on its own.


Exceptions to all of the above thus far include:

  1. if the only way to send an important or large doc is with email and the Subject is labeled URGENT;

  2. if the person emailing you is just neurotic, then you can be sure that their stress, passed on to you will pressure you to reply NOW;

  3. physical, printed and mailed letters strangely do not follow the time × urgency paradigm - they take longer to get from sender to receiver yet they are usually of more serious matter, so you better damn well treat it as urgent in replying...


Communication, as is life, is situational and the rules are not one-size-fits-all or even -most. You have colleagues who you know are to the point and others who, just need to slow their roll. They might not be the best at separating the levels of urgency. They may be getting pushy with you because someone else in a superior role is being pushy with them to get things done, they might struggle with stress and anxiety, or it's possible they just don't know how you receive and process information.

To go in deeper on that last point, what this could mean is their use of technology might be different from yours. They might not realize that you have your work email connected to your phone and then text you to let you know that they sent you something. Potentially overwhelming if they then message you on Facebook because they see you are active and you haven't replied to your text yet so maybe you didn't see the text about the email and you must see the email even though "I don't need a response right now, I just want to make sure you got it"! OMG, OMG, OMG!


**comes back to one's senses**

[Trust me, I have seen it get worse/go further than this.]


Or they might not realize that you don't have your work email on your phone (because you're trying to create a work-life balance), assume that you do have it connected and when you go to work the next day, you're suddenly in trouble for "ignoring" your boss.


How you can avoid this stress:

  • If it is your work email, you can add your working hours to the bottom of your signature.

  • If you happen to have your work email connected to your phone, make sure your mobile email signature matches and includes your hours

  • If your email provider offers a setting to send an away message during your off hours, use it

  • Idk if anyone has this yet, but it would be great if instead of turning on "Do Not Disturb" for your entire phone, you could turn it on for certain apps, like email

  • Until we get this option, if you're going to connect your work email to your phone, after you follow the steps above, try your best to be firm and develop self control in resisting looking at your email on your phone during off hours. 

  • Be cautious with giving your boss and coworkers your personal number. Again, it's all situational. Maybe you work somewhere with multiple locations or maybe you're all in agreement that you're only going to text when you're running late. 

  • An alternative to giving out your number is creating a Google Voice number that you can turn off after hours (might get tricky if your team doesn't understand this)

  • Best option if you're going to give out your number, just be clear and upfront about how you want it to be used and respected


How you can avoid accidentally creating this stress for others:

  • Get more familiarized with your email provider's settings. In Gmail, you can toggle whether your signature will be included at the very end of the thread or included with your response. (Super helpful in making it easier to get info like your phone number or address moments before a meeting)

  • DO NOT start a new email when you reply. I've noticed some colleagues seem to be forwarding their responses. The Subject is still the same, I see their reply with the last thing I sent right below it, but it's not in the same thread - it's its own stand alone email. DON'T DO THIS because now you will have multiple threads of the same conversation dancing around your inbox and you won't know which thread has what you need. KEEP IT ALL TOGETHER. I'm wondering if this is an issue with Yahoo, or just the few who I see use it. If it's not you, and your email provider is separating things, check your settings to see if you can halt this, or consider another free email provider like Gmail. 

  • Don't treat email like a group text unless everyone is on the same page with using it that way. I've never seen a group where 100% of those included want to use it that way... If they're going along with it, they're probably being polite to not hurt your feelings as much as the group email aggravates them. 

  • Friends, Family and colleagues outside of work: Understand that many smart phone users have several communication platforms centralized on their phone. This is not an invitation to use all of them when you don't get a response the first time. 

  • Employers: Understand that many smart phone users have several communication platforms centralized on their phone. This is not an invitation to use all of them. This is not an invitation to send things after hours if you're not going to pay them for it. Employees, millennials especially, are trying to solidify and navigate their work-life balance. They are trying to build restraint in not replying in their off hours but they want to please you as their boss to secure their job. Please try to build restraint as well. If you are going to send something during the off time, write "for work tomorrow" or something similar at the beginning of the Subject. 

  • Or, another option you have is downloading the Gmail extension, Boomerang. If you have an idea and you know it's going to disappear if you don't write it down, if you don't that email, schedule it to send when your employee starts their shift.

  • If you have employees, suggest that they do not connect their work email to their phones. Unless they don't typically use the same computer in the same place for a majority of their job. If travel or working remotely is involved, then this may be the exception.

  • Know that it is very likely that someone saw your message in whatever way you sent it, they might just not be ready to respond yet. 

  • If you have employees, ask them when they begin work if you may have their cell number and how THEY would like you to use it. They might not be comfortable telling you on their own without you asking them. Ask and then respectfully follow what they told you.


Some may think that respect must be earned, but you can't poke a bear, step back and wait to be respected. Come forth with respect and it can only grow from there.


Let's be mindful of each other and ourselves. I know a few of the tips above are things that I have to keep reinforcing for myself. Thanks for reading.


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