The speed of the boss is the speed of the team. -Lee Iacocca
It bugs me when I call or e-mail someone and don't get a response. My mind considers the possibilities: Is their voicemail or e-mail not working? Is the person on vacation? Have I offended them and they are refusing to reply because of the offense? Then, a few days later, I'm forced into new decisions: Do I contact them again? If I called last time, should I use e-mail this time? Should I check with someone else to find out if they are on vacation?
All of this would be unnecessary if people responded within 24 hours to their messages. I have set this as a personal goal, and find that it benefits me, and the people who are contacting me, in numerous ways:
- It strengthens my personal and business reputation. People know if they send me an e-mail, I will respond quickly.
- It requires me to manage my schedule, building in adequate time to reply expediently.
- It forces me to delegate in order to manage the number of messages I receive.
- It prevents issues from escalating, as they are resolved swiftly.
- It reduces stress, as I don't have e-mails and calls building up over time.
- It is efficient, as I handle the issue immediately rather than putting it off.
- It keeps me on top of rapidly changing situations, rather than being days behind others.
When I discuss the 24-hour response, the usual retort is "Sounds like a great idea, but I must get 1,000 e-mails a day!" If the quantity of e-mails you receive is overwhelming, you need to reduce it. You should review every e-mail and decide:
- Do I absolutely have to handle this, or can I delegate it to someone else?
- Do I need this information on an on-going basis?
- Am I being "over-informed" by a person on my team, with many e-mails telling me everything they are doing in unnecessary detail?
- Is this junk e-mail that I can stop by unsubscribing to it?
With a goal of responding in 24 hours, you can monitor your success and reduce your e-mail to meet the target. You may find your e-mails significantly reduced, as people don't have to send you multiple follow-up messages, since you are now responding quickly!
- Commit to reply to your e-mails and messages within 24 hours.
- Put in place a process to ensure you meet your commitment.
- Reduce the number of e-mails that you get by critically reviewing each one.
Less stress, a strong professional reputation, greater productivity.
Excerpted from Chapter 37, 1,000 Emails, of The Surpassing Life: 52 Practical Ways to Achieve Personal Excellence, thesurpassinglife.com.