Don’t apologize for not being glued to your inbox.
Dear anyone who includes “sorry for the late response” in emails you respond to a day or two after receiving them: You have to stop.
As writer Melissa Dahl explains in this Science of Us piece, when we apologize for these “delayed” responses (which, in reality, aren’t that delayed at all) it feeds into an unhealthy work culture where we feel the need to be attached to our inboxes at all times. Dahl points to a piece by Melissa Febos on Catapult where she writes that people who apologize for taking a “reasonable” amount of time to respond “are ruining it for the rest of us (and yourself) by reinforcing the increasingly accepted expectation of immediate response.”
So what can we do to escape this email dilemma? Dahl uses Dan Ariely, a professor of behavioral economics at Duke University, as an role model to follow. Ariely (who has a form set up in his inbox that requires people to note their deadline for a reply) was recently featured on the Game Planpodcast where he said, “with email, we treat everything as if we’re in a hurry…there’s a huge difference between important and urgent.” Short of creating your own Ariely-style inbox form (a genius idea, we must say) Science of Us suggests simply asking people when they need a reply by or if their message is urgent. Having this information could make a huge difference in alleviating unnecessary email stress and helping you escape the inbox so you can actually attend to what matters.
Most importantly, stop apologizing for having a humane relationship with your inbox.