Pardon My Delayed Email Response

On occasion I’ve written blog posts out of frustration that lacked emotional intelligence — most of which remained in “draft” status and never saw the light of day. One such post from a few years ago was written after receiving an email from a coworker that really frustrated me.

Now, I’ve received hundreds of emails that frustrated me in my working life, but this one was different. Because I made the mistake of reading that email at 5AM in the morning, it hijacked my mood that morning, resulting in a really fast, angry morning run. In retrospect, this was shame on me, not on my coworker.

I was reminded of that experience when I recently read Tim Ferriss’ 4 Hour Work Week. One lesson he shares in the book is to be very intentional about when we check email. This includes not checking email first thing in the morning or last thing at night.

Admittedly I’ve been hit and miss with this discipline, and only after the recent reading of that book have I rekindled my effort to curb my email addiction. Currently, I’m doing a better job at responding to email, typically around noon and near the end of the day. Here are a few observations I’ve seen in my personal and work life since doing this:

1. I’m more present with my family – By not checking my email first thing in the morning I’m more able to spend time and be present with my wife and kids. As my young children are growing up so quickly, the last thing I want to do during my mornings and evenings is to have my nose buried in my phone or computer doing email.

2. I’m getting projects done – It’s so easy for the day to get away from me when I spend it responding to email. It puts me in a reactive mentality responding to the needs and demands of others, setting aside my own priorities and initiatives. When I get to the office in the morning, my complete focus has been to work on a key project for the day while I’m most alert and awake and it’s great to get stuff done.

3. My email responses have been a bit delayed – Now that I’m doing email a couple times per day, some of my email responses have been a bit more delayed. But instead of being an ongoing back and forth all day, I put all of my focus on my email correspondence a couple times per day and it makes me more productive in my other activities and projects.

This is definitely a work in progress for me and I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I’m not still tempted to check my email often. I’m not totally sure that urge will ever go away and I know there’s some science associating the behavior to dopamine hits in the brain. Ultimately, I much prefer the endorphins from running and it’s all the better when I’m not pondering some frustrating email I received first thing in the morning.

Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Experience at FCR, the premiere provider of outsourced call center and business process solutions. He has more than 17 years of experience as a customer service and experience professional. He is co-founder of the Customer Service Life blog and a regular contributor. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

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