As a venture capitalist, I normally have a voracious appetite for “better and faster,” but I am coming to the conclusion that in some cases I want slower email.
I want slower email, because I need to protect myself and others from me: “Mr. Zero In-box Guy.” It’s sad, but true that I can’t sleep unless I’ve gotten through all (or the vast majority) of my tasks. I, also, answer every email that I get, but for spam. And I try to answer quickly. I don’t think Brad or I would admit it, but I think that he and I have an unspoken contest to see who can reply to emails faster.
So let’s be generous and say I suffer from ECD – Email Compulsive Disorder. It can be impressive to some, but also can annoy the Hell out of others, including myself.
Over the past 6-9 months, I’ve begun using the delay-send feature in Outlook. It’s had a huge positive impact on me. I’d encourage everyone (who is ECD like me) to try it. You’ll be glad that you did.
The big picture is that use of delay-sending slows down the velocity of conversations. If you are ECD, then the velocities of all your email communications are equivalent, regardless of the parties involved, or the importance of the conversation. End result for me? Equivalent levels of stress related to emails across all spectrums of my communications because I’m constantly driving toward inbox zero.
So now, let’s introduce manual outbound delay. For instance, instead of immediately responding to someone, I put an artificial lag on the send (and it can be 2 hours or a week or whatever) and I don’t immediately get a third email back. Maybe my friend from law school is feeling “chatty” and I don’t have the time to interact. I can hit delay send which one, slows down velocity, but two, satisfies my ECD by having the email out of my inbox.
It works great for weekends, too. I get an email on Friday afternoon. If I reply back, I’ll probably get something back Saturday, which means that I’ll spend more time on the weekend than I’d like doing email. If it’s not urgent, why not delay send until Monday morning?
It makes my co-workers happy. Let’s assume I have a partner named Brad Feld. Hypothetically, he is on vacation in Detroit and he is trying to stay off grid to enjoy all that Detroit has to offer. I have something that I want to ask him / forward him. I can either one: send right away while he’s on vacation; or two: I can delay send until he is back. Now you can say “Jason, if Brad is offline, what’s the difference?” but as a fellow ECD sufferer, he’s been known to cheat and I don’t want to feed his affliction.
And when I slip while I’m on vacation and check email (I have a hard time disconnecting), at least I can save me from myself a bit by delaying the response until after my return and slowing down the velocity.
So give it a shot. See how it works. You know there are frustrations with folks and situations that you feel the pace of conversation far outweighs the appropriateness. This is my way to solve that and it’s having a real positive effect.
(Note to AT&T. Me wanting slower email does not make your service performance a “feature.”)
*** After I posted this, Alex at Baydin reminded me about Boomerang – an Outlook plugin that makes emails in one’s inbox go away and come back later. Another way for inbox zero with less velocity ***