Why You Shouldn’t Rush to Answer Your Emails

Between endless marketing, non-stop social media notifications, work messages and hellos from friends and family, we get a lot of emails. Trying to sift through and organize all those daily emails can drive you up the wall, which is why Merlin Mann originally developed the concept of “Inbox Zero”—the elusive satisfaction of digital organization at its finest.

The goal of Inbox Zero is the keep your email inbox empty, or very close to empty, at all times. While this is nice to look at, it may not be the best for your happiness and productivity. It means you need to continually respond to many emails, lest they get lost in the ‘read’ pile, and that takes tremendous time, energy and patience.

In reality, no one wants to spend multiple hours a day responding to and sifting through emails. It’s stressful, exhausting, and incredibly time-consuming.

Besides being a time suck, the main issue with responding to emails quickly is that you gain a reputation of being ultra-responsive. Over time, the people that correspond with you will grow to expect that. That means more and more urgent emails will build up in your inbox, all crying out for your immediate attention! Do you really want to be that person who is always on call, no matter what you’re doing?

That’s why keeping your inbox disorganized and not rushing to answer every query as soon as it comes in may be a better way of living, if you’re looking to be more productive, more creative, and happier.

By not rushing to answer emails and letting your inbox exist in its natural cluttered state, you are better able to stay in the moment, accomplish good work and enjoy your life. To help you achieve inbox chaos, here are three rules to follow to maintain a beneficially aloof email presence (without losing your job).

Late night social networking addiction, insomnia, or simply working overtime

1. Don’t check your email more than two or three times a day.

There is no email that can’t wait in your inbox for a few hours. Let’s be honest: there are other ways of contacting you if a matter is particularly urgent.

If your work relies heavily on email, it would be smart to only check it at the start of the day, after lunch (not at) and right before going home. That’s it. That keeps you up to date on any new information without hogging all of your productivity time.

Consider only responding to the important emails at the end of the day. Over time, your contacts will learn your habits and know when they can expect a response from you. The people around you will learn to adapt. Heck, maybe people will start talking to you in person again!

Don’t answer emails during your off hours.

Off hours are your time, not time for you to catch up on work emails, no matter how cluttered your inbox. Set an auto-reply informing all emailers of your hours, so they know where you’re at.

Inform your coworkers and boss about your new policy, if you need to. I assume your original job description didn’t entail replying to an urgent email in the middle of dinner.

If someone really, truly needs you, they can call. Don’t respond to work emails during your off hours. (Especially you, freelancers. Set off hours for yourselves and stick to them. It will save your sanity.)

Young woman lying in a hammock with laptop

Stop replying to every single email.

To reiterate, replying to emails takes time and effort. By responding to absolutely everything, you are subtly implying to yourself and others that your time is not that valuable. Let’s be real—some emails don’t need responses. So stop responding to everything.

Heck, even important ones can wait a few hours. And if an important one slips through the cracks, odds are the sender will follow up and email you again.

Not responding to everything doesn’t make you a bad person. It means you are busy living your wonderful life, and you don’t have time to fuss with a silly inbox.

My Email Chaos Experiment

Answering emails immediately and keeping your inbox at zero is stressful. I’ve inadvertently done my own little experiment which demonstrates this. My oldest email account currently has an unread inbox of 5,185 messages. My newest has an unread inbox of zero.

Say I get six emails to each account within the next hour. When I open the oldest account, those six emails are just another drop in the bucket—no stress. But if I see an inbox of six in my newest account, stress ripples through my body. I drop everything and quickly sift through the unread messages to see what colleagues and advertisers want from me.

It’s not fun; it’s not healthy; it’s just stressful. Keeping an inbox at zero is tense work.

I know that loosening email’s grip on yourself can be tough—it’s a work in progress for us all. But take baby steps. Acknowledge that there is a problem and go from there. Hopefully, you’ll have a stress-free relationship with your cluttered inbox… someday.

Related on Care2

Images via Getty


Maria P
Martha P1 months ago

thanks for posting

Thomas M
Thomas M2 months ago


David C
David C2 months ago

do your best, thanks

Mia B
Melisa B2 months ago

Thank you

Sonia Minwer Barakat Requ

Thanks for sharing

Maria P
Martha P3 months ago

Thank you for sharing

Caitlin L
Past Member 3 months ago

Thank you

Pietro M
Pietro Maiorana3 months ago

Ma il tizio seduto nel fondo della piscina come fa a stare perfettamente immobile? Si merita un applauso!!

JoAnn P
JoAnn Paris3 months ago

Thank you for this very interesting article.

Glennis W
Glennis W3 months ago

Thank you for caring and sharing