14 Reasons Why I Didn’t Respond to Your Email Five Minutes After You Sent It

If you’ve been following this blog for any amount of time, you know email is the bane of my existence. At this point, I get so much of it, it’s difficult to stay on top of and things inevitably fall through the cracks. While I try to respond to everyone who sends me an email (on both personal and professional accounts) there are times when I just don’t bother.  I addressed this in a post I wrote in June, 2011 called 10 Reasons I Don’t Answer Your Email.

Now, I do respond to most of my email, because most of it warrants response. Also, I know how frustrating it is to write to someone and not receive the courtesy of a reply. Still, some of you out there are a little impatient. Sometimes folks get a little testy if I don’t drop everything immediately and respond to emails soon after they hit “send.”

Pestering me on Twitter or Facebook because you sent an email a few minutes ago and didn’t receive a response doesn’t make me want to move quicker. Or, it may inspire me to answer right away, but it might be out of duress and I won’t give you the attention you deserve.

If I don’t immediately respond to your email, there’s usually a good reason.

  1. It requires more than 60 seconds of my time: It’s better for both of us if I wait until I have the time to read and respond rather than dropping everything and sending you an email immediately because I know you’ll be pinging me soon to wonder why I didn’t send you an email.
  2. I’m on the phone with you because you called to tell me you’re sending an email: If you want me to respond right away stop pinging me via other channels to tell me about your email.
  3. It’s a weekend: Maybe I work on the weekend. Maybe I don’t. But I like having options.
  4. It’s 10:00 p.m.: Dude.
  5. I still haven’t gotten to the other ten emails you send in the past hour: I just want to make sure you’re done and maybe answer everything in one fell swoop than to send responses to 100 individual emails by the same person.
  6. You have to take a number: I still have respond to all the emails I received from other people today.
  7. It’s a pitch: Very few pitches are worthy of more than the delete function.
  8. It’s a poorly researched pitch: Don’t pitch antifreeze for my food blog, please. No matter how hard you try to twist it around, it’s still not topic appropriate.
  9. The “Reply Alls” are killing me: Every time I try to respond, one of the other 99 people in the “reply all” chain takes my answer.
  10. There was no need to reply: You didn’t ask a question or give any indication a reply was warranted. You told me you were going to do something and how you were going to do that something but made it clear you weren’t looking for any type of feedback or information.
  11. Because I’m not ready for the ensuing back and fourth: Ever read an email and just know it wasn’t going to be resolved with one quick answer?  Back and forth emails are the reason  I prefer to use the phone.
  12. You sent me a “I just saw you on Twitter so I know you’re available to answer this question” email: Dude. It’s Sunday afternoon, can’t I have a little social conversation on a day off without being expected to work?
  13. Your email has “Fwd Fwd Fwd Fwd” in the subject line: If it shares pictures of puppies or double rainbows I’m so outtathere.
  14. You want me to Digg/Stumble/Tweet/Retweet/Share your sh*t: Just. no.

Now, this doesn’t mean I have no intention of responding to your email and having a positive, productive discussion. However, if I don’t drop everything to respond right away, please don’t get passive aggressive on the social networks or call me out for not responding immediately. I will answer (unless it’s a FWD. or share request), but I can’t always respond immediately.

What are some of the reasons you don’t get to your email right away?


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  1. Joel says:

    This is how Deb earns her title as the Queen of Social Networking. Having spent 14 years writing for picky tech and gaming geeks, I can so, so relate to this piece. 

    P.S. Deb? Will you  Digg/Stumble/Tweet/Retweet/Share my sh*t if I send you an email? I’d be happy to have a long, thorough back and forth about it. 😉

  2. I love this! 
    (waiting for your reply to my reply!)

  3. This is pure awesome. I am tempted to copy paste and email it back to some people, letting them choose which # they fit under.

  4. Genesis says:

    Well, I think you’ve covered pretty much ALL of my reasons for not responding immediately to emails. My biggest pet peeve are the unrelated pitches. Really? Viagra for my work at home blog? Did you even LOOK at the title of the blog? And, no, I do not want a sample, thankyouverymuch. 

  5. Sometimes I don’t respond right away because I don’t know what to say. I don’t have all the answers, and sometimes I need time to think about something. I don’t want to fill YOUR inbox with nonsense emails that just say, “Hey, I’m thinking about it.” if it’s going to take less than two or three days to respond.

    Of course, the downside to this is that sometimes I forget to actually get back to the person who sent me the email because it gets buried. I always say to send me a follow up if you don’t hear back in a week. I do try to respond to every email!

  6. Biggest reasons for delay? 1) Not that important. Yet.  2) Not sure what to do. 3) Not my job. 4) Trying to figure out the appropriate way to say, “SERIOUSLY? Um, no.” My volume of email has exploded with a new position as an interim communications director for a large nonprofit. I have again been reminded of how useless email can be when you work in a  large organization with people who are mostly busy in the field doing their real jobs. Anyway, thanks for another great list.

  7. Becky McCray says:

    I just had to cross-share these comments from Tom Peters today on Twitter: 

    “Great way to handle contentious emails. Don’t respond. Circa 2011 idea that every non-junk email should be responded to is just plain nuts…When I get a contentious email from someone, I often go back to files and find non-contentious email they sent 4 months ago–respond to it.”

  8. Brian Driggs says:

    I try to maintain “inbox zero…” at least at the day job.  A glance at the monitor to the right of this one shows only six messages on this Fortune 500-owned workstation – and two of them are white papers I forwarded to myself for future reference. No small feat.

    Before you Google me to make sure the voodoo doll looks close enough to be effective, I’m sure I don’t even receive a fraction of the email volume most people do. Part of it is due to my not being particularly important, part of it due to my not setting the expectation of a prompt email response. (Though the well-worn, nearly transparent keys on my Blackberry might suggest a different story for my side-hustle email traffic.)

    One day, I hope to get to the point where my inbox becomes more a global discussion forum index, full of links to conversations on myriad topics, keeping me truly in-touch with what matters from my communities.

    Never give up.

  9. annmariastat says:

    You left out my #1 reason – I have shit to do.
    I did not respond to your request that you sent five minutes ago for a letter of recommendation because I have a client on the phone who wants to discuss renewing a contract with us, a report due to a federal agency by COB Friday, a proposal to review and a presentation tomorrow during which I would like to have better answers in the Q& A than “Your guess is as good as mine.”

  10. I don’t know if my senior citizen dad cares or not that I don’t ever respond to his religious/puppy/double rainbow emails with FWDFWDFWD in front of them but I don’t care if he does. And that’s my dad.

    I’m totally with you on your stance here Deb!

    This post should go a long ways in helping to give the people who follow you some perspective into what it’s like to have a lot of people asking for your attention.

    One thing I’ve found that helps me is to never respond immediately. As soon as I’ve done that in the past, it’s set the precedent for what someone expects in the future.