E-Mail Overload

Alexandra Samuel, a social media maven, has written about her attempt to reach an empty inbox. She did it by using a combination of technology (filters) and prioritizing. Her advice echoes some of the tips delivered in our faculty development seminar series.

Now Samuel is recommending another tactic altogether. She wants to upend the expectation that every e-mail message deserves a reply. It used to be that the burden fell on the letter writer to gather the materials and stamp needed to communicate. With e-mail, she says, the burden shifts to the receiver. So, she is starting a new experiment that will automatically reply to every unsolicited message with a variant of this text:

Due to the volume of email I receive, I no longer personally review every message. If you do not receive a further reply within 72 hours, please assume that I have had to focus on other professional or personal priorities at this time. Thank you in advance for your understanding.

I admit that I like to receive responses to all the messages I sent, particularly when it involves scheduling an event. With that in mind, I think carefully before I send a message to consider if I can answer my question in some other way. The automatic reply may work for someone in high demand, but if you’re the person looking for help, it goes against protocol so drastically that it risks offending.

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