Source | FastCompany : By SARA MCCORD
You nod along when everyone around you is talking about how they achieve inbox zero. But truthfully, you never feel like you get there.
And in your defense, that’s because you receive messages that require lengthy orthoughtful responses. Someone asked for your opinion, and you’d like to take the time to formulate it. Or there’s a five-page attachment for your review—and so you’ll need to review it. Or you want to word your response a certain way and would like to wait until you’re fresh.
The standard solutions for this situation all kind of suck. You can “confirm receipt,” but that sounds super formal, and there’s no telling when the other person will prod you with a note that roughly translates to, “And . . . ?” You can leave an auto-responder on 24-7, but that may not be your style—and you’re still not providing a specific answer. Or you can just take your time, but you’ll have left the other person wondering and waiting.
There’s a trick I recently fell into that has solved this problem for me. I aim to reply within 24 hours (if not much sooner), with a line that buys me some time. It satisfies the other person that I’m on it, gives me time to follow up when it works according to my schedule, and gets me that much closer to inbox zero. Here are three of my favorites.
I had a former boss who always stressed the importance of managing expectations. Informing people on the front end allows you to bypass confusion and frustration. And the best way to do it is—in the words of the popular adage—under-promise, over-deliver.
If you simply wait a week to get back to someone, he’ll assume you considered it a low priority—and that doesn’t make anyone feel good. However, if you write him back right away clarifying when you will be in touch, it seems like it was really important to you to provide a timeline as soon as humanly possible.
By setting an expectation for when he can expect a thorough response, you’re being thoughtful. And if you beat that date, you’re no longer the person who took five days to respond: You’re the person who said she’d need a week but replied two days early.