Sunday Life: try this “push back” holiday out-of-office reply!

This week I push back


I know about a dozen people who simply don’t reply to email. I used to wonder how they got anything done, or sustained a social life. But they’re always at parties and are some of the most successful, adroit people I know.

OK, surely, then they’re in a permanent state of guilt-squirm. I mean, imagine walking around with that many unreplied emails hanging over your head! That’s a heavy karmic cloud, right there! But, nope. They’re unperturbed.

My friend James, one of the dirty dozen, says he feels justified in being so electronically AWOL “People think that because they’ve spent five seconds firing off an email asking something of me, they deserve a response that will take me 25 minutes to research and compose,” he says. “It doesn’t weigh up.”

In the past, he says, you’d have to compose a letter or pick up the phone, which required more considered application and was deserving of considered help. Which is actually a terrific point.

But isn’t he afraid important stuff won’t get done? No, he says. If it’s important to him, he does in fact reply (clearly mine rarely make the cut). If it’s more important to the other party, he says, they’ll find another way to a) get their answer or b) make it easier for him to give them their answer (eg: “Dear James, could you please advise which of these three carefully thought-out options works best?”).

Which sounds horribly selfish. But on consideration, it’s supply/demand theory applied to the time-poor economy. You want it more, you do the work.

Catching up with the Jameses of the world is bloody infuriating. But I wonder if they’re not the survivors… the post-nuclear fall-out cockroaches of this frenetic information age.

Read more