Email Expectations

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 kind of guy.

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.

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Originally published at and in my email newsletter on design & life Just Enough.