My email SLA

Returning to work this week after almost two weeks with my family was not pleasant. In particular, I knew that I had over 1500 items in my three inboxes (direct, copied, external) and I’d long since abandoned Inbox Zero (despite loving my mental state when I do get it working for me).  I’d intended to use the last couple of days before Christmas to fix this, but found myself working on various crises until I finally logged off for the holidays (and afterwards too…)

This week, I’ve tweeted a couple of times on what might be called “productivity tips” or teaching others how you expect to engage.  It started out with an excellent email 101 post from Wes Miller (@getwired) which looks at something many organisations suffer with – too many meetings, and too much email. For me, the last paragraph says it all:

Then, last night, I saw that Alan Berkson (@berkson0) wrote an article for Social Media Today aimed at setting expectations for customer service. Even if you don’t interact directly with customers, it’s highly likely that you have “internal customers” – people in your organisation who rely on you to respond to their requests. So, I’ve taken his tip to update my email signature to set expectations re: replies – call it an “email SLA” if you like – after all, email is an asynchronous communication mechanism:

“Please note that, whilst I generally try to respond to emails sent directly to me within 24 hours, this is not always possible. If your message is urgent (i.e. requires same-day or next-day action), please feel free to call me and, if necessary, leave a message on my mobile phone.  My Calendar is also open to view. Messages on which I’m copied (CC or BCC) are assumed to be for information only and it may be longer before they are read/acted upon.”

Added to that, my out of office message is frequently set, even when I’m in the office, just to say “I’m really, really busy and these are the people who might be able to help whilst I can’t”.

One final point, whilst you’re setting expectations around email, share your calendar too… getting others to look at it before booking meetings/calling you – well, that’s another issue entirely…

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