This has New York Times reporter Alina Tugend wigged out. So she asked a bunch of her friends why it's happening.
I ignore a lot of email.
Probably 90% of the email I get, I delete or archive without opening. Most of of these emails are from PR people asking me to write about their clients. These pitches are often off-topic or boring. Responding to each one with a "no" would take a good hour, drain me of my daily allotment of energy for decision-making, and interrupt whatever else I'm trying to get done.
Journalists tend to think they are the only profession deluged by this kind of email, but I bet people in other jobs have to deal with a similar issue. I'm sure doctors get notes from pharma sales people, for one example.
Another 5% of my email is stuff that I want to respond to, but don't have time to right away. I "star" or "flag" it and then get through that pile of email maybe three times a week. I think this is actually a good habit, but I worry that the people waiting for a response from me think I'm being rude taking so long.
The rest of my email I respond to right away. It's either stuff I can respond to very quickly with a couple sentences or a note from my bosses, wife, or very important sources.
I recognize that not responding to PR pitches and replying slowly to emails that are actually important may sometimes send the wrong message.
PR people, for one, say their clients will insist that they be told "no" before giving up on a pitch or its variants.
So I've been thinking of a solution I've seen others deploy: a non-vacation auto-responder.
I'm wondering if I should set up one that tells anyone emailing me:
"Thanks for your note. I get a ton of email. If you are in PR and don't get a response from me on your pitch, take it as a 'no, thank you.' Otherwise, assume that I will get back to you within a week. If your email is very urgent please re-send it with 'URGENT' in the subject line. Please don't abuse that trick. Sorry for this auto-responder, which is now helping to clutter your inbox."
Blogger/Rackspace spokesman Robert Scoble and venture capitalist Dave McClure use very similar auto-responders. I've gotten them in my inbox after emailing them in the past. I'm sure that's where I got the idea.
Here is McClure's:
hi there... sorry if i don't get back to you right away, however
sometimes responding to every email can be a challenge. i know that
sounds like i'm being a douchebag, but hey that's how it goes when
you're a D-list web celebrity like me (kidding, kidding).
if it's URGENT, and/or you are a 500 Startups investor, founder,
mentor or partner, or if we are in the middle of a deal, then PLEASE
give me a call or text if you have my phone #, or read below for more
info on how to get in touch with me. OR YOU CAN SEND ME AN ALL-CAPS
EMAIL AND I MIGHT READ THAT. or i might not.
if you'd like, you may be able to reach the right team member or get
in touch with me faster by filling out this form:
in the meantime, if you want to follow extremely interesting updates
about me brushing my teeth & other crap, go here:
for completely unproductive & NSFW images & videos, go here:
if you've read this far, you are very dedicated. i encourage you to
spend less time reading my auto responder, and more time reading a
good book or playing Angry Birds.
Here is Scoble's:
I'm now getting emails at a level that I can't respond to everyone.
This is an automatic response to an email you sent to
I will make a best attempt to get back to you, especially if you are
sharing world-changing technology with me. I do read every email, but
I only can reply to about 10%, sorry.
If you are desperate please call me on my cell phone at
+1-425-205-1921 (if I'm available I will pick up, if not, keep calling
back until you get me).
To PR people, if you want me to cover your product you've got to give
me more than one day warning. I do videos and I'm already scheduling
out January of 2012 (yikes!).
I don't do press-release rewrites like other tech bloggers. It's best
to get in touch with me at LEAST A MONTH before you launch (right now
my calendar is totally booked until mid-December). To see a successful
pitch, see how Flipboard pitched me (it is my favorite startup of
(Flipboard showed me what they were doing THREE MONTHS before they
I specifically am looking for world-changing technology and startups,
if you have one, please be persistent. I am often out shooting and
miss cool stuff once in a while.
If you are looking for more about where I'm publishing, visit
https://profiles.google.com/scobleizer which has links to all of my
blogs, and social media accounts.
My calendar is here so you can see what spots I have open:
Another way to get through to me is to talk with my producer, Rocky
Barbanica. You can reach him at email@example.com .
Thanks and sorry if I don't get back to you.
I think auto-responders like these are a good idea, but here's why I haven't set up my own yet.
I'm worried that kind of auto-responder will make me seem like a self-important d-bag.
If it does, then the solution actually exacerbates the original problem, which was that I'm worried my email habits are making people think I'm a rude jerk.
Let me know what you think in the poll below.
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