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Don’t send someone an email at a time you wouldn’t call them on the phone

On this final day of winter vacation for many people, resist the urge to send emails to co-workers. 

You may be happy to clean out your inbox and get ahead of the game, but it’s not fair to the recipients (especially if they report to you).  You take away their right to enjoy the full vacation/weekend by yanking them back into work concerns.  You’re stealing their attention that should be devoted to personal and family enjoyment.

Tim Sanders says it best in this classic from his series on email etiquettePlease listen here.

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  1. Jay January 3, 2010 at 5:36 pm #

    I can’t agree. The asynchronicity of email is it’s best feature. This advice breaks it. Unlike a phone call, an email message does not interrupt and it does not require the recipient to be in synchronous communication with the sender.

    Anybody who reacts to every incoming email like it’s an urgent call to immediate action is going to get burned out – even if they’re only doing that 9-5. The higher-quality response to this problem is to train people in your organization to function at a higher level using GTD, or some other methodology.

  2. Tyler Hurst January 3, 2010 at 6:58 pm #

    Completely disagree. People need to learn to handle incoming information and if they can’t ignore email sent during a time they aren’t supposed to be working, that’s a problem they need to learn to fix.

    I agree with Jay on all points.

  3. Mitch Joel - Twist Image January 3, 2010 at 9:20 pm #

    I think there are two more thoughts here:

    1. People need to learn how to manage their technology and not let their technology manage them.
    2. I get my best work done on planes (usually late at night or early in the am) and early in the morning (when I’m on the ground). I think there is a general understanding about who gets what done and when. Just because I email someone at 5:30 am, I have zero expectations that I am going to see a response right away… nor do I want one.

    Plus, if it’s a real emergency, the phone usually does the trick.

  4. Andy Sernovitz January 3, 2010 at 9:33 pm #

    I do appreciate the other perspective from time-management/tech experts.

    But this is about politeness, not self-management. Not everyone has the same skills or experience.

    It bothers some people–so instead of telling them they should learn to deal with it, maybe it would be a nice thing to leave your email offline, and send the messages the next morning.

    There is a power issue here. It’s sort of like when a boss tells inappropriate jokes in the office. “Learn to deal with it” isn’t a good answer for those who have to hear them.

    Please do listen to Tim’s audio. He explains it best.

  5. William January 3, 2010 at 11:26 pm #

    This issue is am I putting myself in the recipient’s shoes reading my email (in this case accounting for a holiday)? Just because I can press “send” doesn’t mean I always should. For the record, I’m guilty of doing this. Thanks for bringing it to the front of my mind, as my staff deserve every possible courtesy from me in light of what I expect from them.

  6. Nick January 25, 2010 at 12:22 am #

    Andy, in the business world I consider it unprofessional for someone to be bothered by the productive business activities of a colleague. What if your team is international and 8 hours ahead of you? Should you delay sending email and wake up at 1am so that their delicate egos won’t be harmed by getting an email prior to 9am their time? What utter rubbish. People need to learn to behave professionally and that means that their egos don’t dictate the terms on which someone else does their work.

    If there’s an issue around the expectation of an instant reply, then that should be corrected, not dictating when it is or is not appropriate to get work done.

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