Nearly every email I receive seems to start with “Sorry for the delay.” I realize that people do this as a sign of respect, but it actually has the opposite effect on me.
I have built my life in a way that allows me to work with my circadian rhythm and carve out time for deep work. I tend to catch up on emails when my brain is too tired to be creative. When I send emails at 9 pm on Fridays, I never expect an immediate response. However, I frequently receive responses on Saturday or Sunday that start with “Sorry for the delay.”
I’m baffled and saddened by this. It seems that our always-on culture has set an unwritten expectation that an email should be responded to within 24 hours, regardless of when it is received. I do not have this expectation. To prevent the perpetuation of this cultural expectation, I would like to make my thoughts clear.
I like to send emails when I have the space to do so. I used to schedule my emails so they would be received during business hours, but I have found that many people prefer to look at email outside those times. If we correspond frequently and you have a preference, please let me know.
I do not ask permission to send emails and do not feel entitled to your response.
I realize my email may not be in line with your priorities. I want my portfolio companies and the people I care about to stay focused on their priorities. I also want people to answer emails in a manner that enables them to say yes to their personal well-being, passions, and interests.
I do not expect lengthy, carefully crafted responses to my emails. This is especially true for my portfolio companies and people I know well. Simple responses like “Not a fit” or “Can’t make it” suffice.
I appreciate and respond to urgency flags. I check my email every couple of hours and will respond to anything that requires urgent attention. I try to flag urgent emails and appreciate urgency flagging from others.
I prefer candor. “Sorry for the delay” is often an inauthentic response. Are you really sorry that you prioritized something else? I prefer responses like “Does not sound fun to me” or “Not in line with my priorities.” If you really want to explain further, I’d like to read something like:
“Rather than answering your non-urgent email immediately, I’m going to slot my response in line with other business priorities.”
“After spending six hours on my laptop, I decided to go outside and take a walk.”
Receiving messages like that will help me follow my own advice. I produce the best results when I stay focused on MergeLane’s strategic priorities, find time to be proactive rather than reactive, and allow room for creativity and innovation. This often means that I answer emails more slowly. While I know this approach yields the best results, the cultural expectation for immediacy and my desire to be helpful are powerful forces.
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