By Jenny Wood | published March 14, 2023
You have 100+ emails in your inbox on Tuesday morning, and you feel pressure to respond to all of them. What if you are letting someone down? What if your team thinks you’re checked out because you didn’t pile on to the email about the Green Widgets project? You feel awkward being the only one who didn’t reply all even though your opinion was already covered by others.
The Big Small Thing
There are practical reasons people respond to emails and there are emotional reasons. When your reason is practical, it almost always serves you well. When it's emotional, it often doesn't.
Look at the first 10 emails in your inbox. Mentally put each of those emails in one of two categories:
Practical reasons to respond
• Answer a question and advances a project
• Cover multiple geographies quickly
• Leave a paper trail
• Allow for collaboration
• Delegate and move things forward
Emotional reasons to respond
• Show responsiveness and dedication to your boss/team
• Feel like you should reply all even you don't have much to add
• Feel productive without much effort
• Decrease your anxiety by “crossing things off your list”
• Feel important and valuable
If you were to respond to all 10 of those first emails in your inbox, chances are, at least a few of them are for emotional reasons. It’s ok to respond to some for emotional reasons, but be aware of the distinction and be discerning about why you feel compelled to action certain emails. Is it worth your time? Does it truly move an idea forward? Will it just clog someone else’s inbox?
Over time, decrease the number you respond to for purely emotional reasons.
How This Helps You Get What You Want
When you’re a prisoner of your inbox, it’s hard to free up time for big, strategic work. If what you want is a promotion, more clients, or more recognition, a key ingredient for that is delivering high-impact projects. Automatically responding to email because you want to feel important or feel responsive is low-impact work.
As an exec at Google, I’ve promoted a lot of people. I’ve never once promoted someone because they were “responsive to email.”
Oh, and Also
I learned this from The Energy Project via a Google training I taught 12 years ago. Every day, I still consider which of the emails I respond to are for practical reasons and which are for emotional reasons. And, it's still a work in progress. It's hard.
Let's do this,
WANT MORE LIKE THIS? Sign up!