Tactical Tip: Return Emails Within 24 Hours

Recently, I sent an email to a leader in my life asking a question and making a suggestion I thought he might appreciate. I didn’t hear back from him for more than two weeks. After the first couple of days I started to wonder if perhaps I didn’t actually send it, so I double-checked. A few days later I started to wonder if I had somehow offended him. Every day thereafter I discovered a pattern whereby I would battle with imagined stories in my head regarding why my friend never responded. I didn’t really want to email or bring it up again simply because I didn’t want to be a pest. Finally, I got the anticipated response. He answered my question and expressed gratitude for my suggestion, which he had already acted on. Needless to say, I put myself through a lot of emotional trauma for no reason at all. This could very easily have been prevented by my friend. 

I’m sure we’re all guilty of this at some point or another. Our Inbox gets inundated with every sort of email imaginable. You know some emails can be deleted, many can be dealt with in just a few seconds, a handful will only take a minute or two of your time, and then there’s the rest. Those emails will require some sort of follow up, action, research, or a lengthy response. That last category of email are the ones that will sometimes sit in the Inbox for days – even weeks.

Today’s Tactical Tip is simply to get into the habit of returning every email within 24 hours.

This is so simple to do, it’s actually embarrassing. Obviously, we can’t control what others might think about us on the other end, but we certainly can minimize the chance that they tell the kinds of ‘stories’ I was guilty of telling myself! Here are three simple steps that will help you build this new habit into your email ridden life.

  1. Read or scan the email and determine what you need to do (and when) in order to properly respond.
  2. Place a task in your Task List or Calendar which includes a deadline on when you believe you can reasonably respond.
  3. Reply to the email author and let them know you have received their question/request and how long it will take for you to get back to them.
Perhaps this scripted response might help:


Thanks for sending me this email. I just looked it over and realize that I won’t be able to respond to you the way I really want to right away. I’d like to take some time to process and think it through. I’m also right in the middle of a couple other projects that take precedence right now. I’ll do my best to get back to you on this in about five days.

Thanks for your patience! 


OK. You’ve officially been armed with an easy to do challenge. Get back to everyone who emails you within 24 hours. I’m confident people will be glad you do!

Image compliments of Salvatore Vuono on freedigitalphotos.net.

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