Confidence drops exponentially as delay in replying to e-mail increases

Even more so when it has something to do with academia. I really hate it when I e-mail someone and I expect a reply and that person does not get back to me. For each 24 hour time span that the person does not get back to me, my confidence in that person just deteriorates exponentially. That confidence is hard, in fact almost impossible to restore.

It just shows that the person just could not be bothered. I realize that there will be many, if not hundreds of e-mails messages coming through and there is no way for you to reply to all of them. I completely understand this if you are a professor who's teaching more than one course during the semester. That is why I try my best to talk to the professor after class if it is easily settled then. Or I elect to e-mail one of the class TAs instead. However, I cannot understand why a TA does not reply to his or her e-mails. This phenomenon infuriates me even more so when my e-mail has been carefully written (with a meticulously subject line that reflects what class it is for and what the topic is) so as to take less than a minute to reply to. There is no way that a TA does not have enough time to reply to his or her students' e-mails. Period.

To alleviate my frustration, I suggest that those people do one very simple thing. Auto-reply once they have at least read my e-mail but have no time to respond. I bet there is a way to configure your mail client to auto-reply once that message has been marked as read but you have no time to reply to. A simple reply would do. Something along the lines of: "Hi. I have read your e-mail and will get back to you shortly. " At least that simple reply assures me that you have received my message and are in the process of figuring out how to reply or something.

And don't even get me started on people who do not bother checking their e-mails. If you do not bother checking your e-mails, just have the mailer auto reply saying something like: "I am sorry but I do not check my e-mails. Please contact me using other methods". Also, then try to make sure that you do not give out your e-mail address anymore.

Finally, if you are working in a group and you are purposely postponing replying to an important e-mail, I think you should have acts of untold suffering performed to all your fingers so that you never need to touch a keyboard again.

With my students, I try to reply to them as soon as possible. If I do not have an immediate answer but have to wait for higher authority to tell me something, at least I let them know about that too. No one has actually told me to do this. I sort of pick it up myself as a habit. And I think it has been a good habit that keeps students happy.

By the way, this article could easily fit under the title of "Effective communication with e-mails" or "What not to do with your mailbox" or "How to get your students to hate you" or "Why some people should have their e-mail address as [email protected]".

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