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Email Is Not An Instant Communication Tool

email envelopeI realize that statement is going to come as a surprise to some people, but it’s true. Even in this age of smart phones, don’t assume email will be read and responded to immediately. My rule of thumb is simple. If I need a response in less than 24 hours, I don’t use email. I pick up the phone and leave a clear, detailed voice mail indicating what I need and by when.

Here are some examples of misuse by email. All of these happened to me.

1. Someone was running late for an event and sent me an email letting me know. The email was sent about an hour before the start time, and she looked very surprised when I said I hadn’t seen it yet. I had been, well, setting up and meeting my guests when she sent it. No harm done, but it was odd.

2. Someone needed information for a meeting the following day. He sent me an email mid-afternoon. Not a big deal, maybe, except I needed to call my bank to get the info. I had been in meetings all afternoon. Guess when I finally saw it? When I got home that evening, after the bank had closed. A phone call would have gotten me on the run, and I could have taken care of it.

And the best one…

3. An email sent at 8:55 canceling a 9:00 meeting. I was already at the meeting place when she sent it. Enough said.

Emergencies happen. Things come up. We understand that. But don’t use email as the method for last minute communication. That’s what phones are for.

Anyone else have a good last-minute email communication story to share?

Image credit: Nevit Dilman under a Creative Commons license