If you want people to respect you professionally, you should respond to every email you receive as quickly as possible, right?
When I started my first full-time job after college, as an executive for the NBA’s Washington Wizards, I used to keep Outlook open all day, so I could reply immediately whenever anyone sent me an email about anything.
My clients and colleagues loved the fact that I would reply faster than Usain Bolt can run 100 meters, but my work was constantly interrupted. Even worse, if/when people did not hear back from me within 2 minutes, they would call me to see why I had not responded yet. They had been trained to expect rapid responses.
It took an unintentional email from a client for me to recognize just how deadly my email habits were to the perception other people had of me.
One afternoon, I was accidentally cc’ed on an email where one of my customers told his assistant that there was no rush to get back to me on one of my questions for him because I “would reply within 15 seconds anyway.”
Suddenly, I realized that people actually thought less of me because of my fast email responses.
These days, I still reply to important emails within 24 hours, but I rarely “drop everything” to reply to an incoming email. In fact, my email is closed most of the time and I only check my emails a few times a day. Don’t knock it until you try it…
Think about this logically. If someone sends you an email and you reply within 5 minutes, the other person will appreciate your fast reply. However, don’t you think they will wonder how you have so little going on that you are able to “drop everything” just for them?
If you sent Donald Trump an email, do you think he would respond within 5 minutes? More importantly, would you expect him to respond to your email within 5 minutes? Of course not. He’s too busy and important to “drop everything” for you.
If you are actually engaged in important work, you literally should not be able to reply quickly to every incoming email. However, if you are not that important yet, for whatever reason, you can still appear busy and important by making people wait (within reason) for your reply.
There are obviously exceptions to this. There are friends/family, customers, and colleagues who I will reply to as fast as possible. However, more than 95% of the emails I get (and more than 95% of the emails you get) don’t fall into the “drop everything” category.
Don’t treat every email or every person emailing you the same way.
In my next article, you’ll learn 3 specific situations when you should intentionally delay your reply to an incoming email.
Pete Leibman is the Founder of Dream Job Academy and the Author of the new book titled “I Got My Dream Job and So Can You.” His career advice has been featured on Fox, CBS, and CNN, and he is a popular Keynote Speaker at career events for college students and at conferences for people who work with college students.