Why I Will Ignore Your Email Message

by | Jul 11, 2013 | 0 comments

In a recent post, I dealt with how to write effective emails. Consistently people ask me questions like “…but what do you do with the incoming email? How do you deal with the daily deluge?”  and  “…how do you check email and manage your email time so it does not consume your day?”

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My Daily Email Consumption Pattern

Here is what I have found to work for me. Some of you who email me often and feel ignored might disagree that this is actually working.

The Morning Scan

In the morning I tend to scan emails. If someone needs a quick reply and it very clear what they want and very short on words, I deal with it then.

Those emails that are wordy, which require me to open up a link or a document, or that require a little thought get skipped.

I also delete a lot right then.

Many productivity experts suggest not looking at email at all in the morning until you have done your major tasks for the day. I agree with that, but yet I find I just have to see what is coming at me for the day.

Later in the day – and usually only once per day, I deal with emails.

First pass:

I am looking for new items I can deal with quickly or delete since more email has come in since the morning scan.  My goal is to minimize the inbox quickly.

Second pass:

Get off lists that I do not want to be on by unsubscribing.

Third pass:

I look for email from key people. Family, key team members, responses I am waiting on, etc. If I can deal with these immediately, I do.

For those that are left,

I will start the 2 minute rule as described by David Allen in Getting Things Done. If I can deal with it now and do so quickly, I do. But, if it looks like it is going to take time to sort through, I either put it on my calendar to do later or put in my action folder which gets dealt with at the end of the week.

This process is not perfect, and does not always get me to an empty inbox, but it does keep me sane.

Random checks – At other times during the day I will check using a similar process. Sometimes this is two or more times, other days it does not happen at all.


7 Reasons I Will Skip Over Your Email Message

  1. You have included a chain of email forwards and responses that cause me to have to read and sift to find the point.
    Instead: Clean it up and get to the point.
  2. I have to open attachments, especially slow ones like Word documents.
    Instead: Consider if the attachment adds value. If it is a document I do not need to edit, then send as a PDF.
  3. I have to login to a website or system to deal with your request.
    Instead: Only make me login if absolutely necessary.
  4. I have no clear idea what you want or the purpose of the email.
    Instead: Get to the point and cut the fluff.
  5. You are too vague about what you want me to do.
    Instead: Tell me what you want me to do. Is it just FYI? Would you like a reply?
  6. You are asking for a meeting and making me plan the schedule.
    Instead: Much better to suggest dates, times, and places. I know this seems like it is rude and presumptuous, but if I cannot or will not do it, I will tell you. Suggesting dates and places to meet is actually helpful.
  7. I have no interest in your subject line.
    Instead: Like everything in life, you have to get my attention.


I am not saying I will never answer emails of these types, but I may not answer them for some time. And, I am not alone. I know many other people who use this skimming process. In fact, I bet you are one of them.

If you want attention, action, and response – make it easier for your reader.


[reminder]What email processes do you use? [/reminder]

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Dale Callahan

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