On some days, I check email all day long. Other days, I may only check it a couple of times, especially if I've got several client appointments or am working on intensive projects.
When I mention that I sometimes only check email once or twice a day, people say, “What about emergencies?!”
The answer is that I worry about email emergencies a lot less than I used to… mostly because they usually don't happen.
“Emergencies” are rare. Very rare.
People label as an emergency anything from not wanting to wait more than 5 minutes for an autoresponder to arrive* to forgetting their password to access a forum** to wanting me to tell them what phone number they should use to call a teleseminar when that number was actually in the email to which they were responding***.
* I once received an email whose subject was “URGENT EMERGENCY NEED RESPONSE” and it turned out that all the sender wanted was to download a freebie .pdf without waiting for the automatically-generated email to arrive. And no, that pdf did not contain life-saving techniques. And yes, they autoresponder was sent… about 2 minutes later.
** Inconvenience is not the same thing as an emergency. I promise. It really isn't.
Genuine emergencies come about extremely infrequently. And when they happen, there's still Twitter Direct Messages or–gasp! old school!–the phone to fall back on.
Emergencies require few words.
If there's an emergency, a Twitter DM will be ample. You can say, “Site down! Call me at 555-xxx-xxxx!” or “Credit card charge system going haywire & charging people 10x normal rates! Help!” and have plenty of characters to spare. You can call me & tell me in under a minute what the emergency is.
If you have to get wordy with your explanation or request, odds are it's not an actual emergency.
Think about it: how many true emergency situations really require more than 140 characters or more than 60 seconds? Fire! Fallen and I can't get up! Pinned by circus elephant! Out of coffee! All real emergencies, all very brief.
It's probably not an emergency.
99% of all “But what about…?” questions can be answered with this. Impatience, inconvenience, and preference are all distinct from urgent. If neither your health nor your livelihood are in jeopardy, it's probably not an emergency.
And if it's not an emergency, it can probably very safely wait until tomorrow (or the next day).
As I sometimes say “You are not a cardiac surgeon. No one is going to die if you leave your work half done on the table.”
Seriously, I think many people have worked themselves into a frenzy. We could all just slow down.
Yay for the truth!
I constantly remind myself that I don’t save babies for a living. I’m a teacher, not a doctor damnit!
Good luck herding your cats.
Amen to this! You’ve really been on a roll with your entries lately; SO true of my business life. There are times when I want to set up a (permanent) autoresponder for emails that have “urgent” or “emergency” in the subject line. In that autoresponder they would find first aid and deep breathing biofeedback exercises. Seriously.
I find myself comparing my job to that of a doctor a bit too often. Maybe this should be added to my list of boundary-establishing areas? 😉
Oh, so true… I got a phone call at 9:30 pm recently from a panicky client (I did not answer the phone – I saw the caller ID). His emergency? The date and time were posting wrong on his blog.
He eventually sent a panicky email to which I replied the following morning during business hours, explaining how to set the date and time through Settings >> General on his dashboard.
I found out a week later that he had also emailed my daughter that same night to ask her to call me to solve his “emergency.”
We’ve had a chat about emergencies and boundaries since then.
This is the best series ever.
Thank you for being you, darling.
I’m thinking a lot about your email posts… incredibly helpful!
.-= Goddess Leonie´s last blog ..Pregnacious Goddess Photography: Kristin & Ryan =-.
I love Allie’s idea on the deep-breathing-techniques auto-responder.
And I love the boundaries you’ve set in place here, Marissa.
I’ve been guilty of pushing my emergencies on others in my life. I probably still do it from time to time. But after seeing how much others’ emails of “oh-my-gosh-I’m-the-only-person-who-exists-drop-everything-now-for-me” adds to the stress and craziness of my own business, I now try to reason with myself and give the other poor soul (very often times a family member) a break.
A lot of it is handling…handling expectations, handling assumptions, vetting working styles before contracts are signed. Like your other entry about boundaries, people will step over us if we allow them to do so. We train people how to treat us. Your email boundaries are a lovely step in that direction.