Yes, you can respond to an email too soon (and it can come back to bite you)

A lot of us know that missing or forgetting to respond to an email can have bad consequences, but what about responding to emails too quickly? Can responding too quickly hurt you?

In truth, yes. It can. 

Responding too quickly has a number of unintended consequences, and we might not even know that responding too quickly to our emails hurts our careers and increases stress

If you respond to emails immediately after getting them, then you are probably hurting your productivity, and you are more likely to send an email that you might regret. 

Here are three primary reasons why responding to emails too quickly hurts you. 

1. You are training people to expect an immediate response

When people know that you respond immediately, they will expect that near-instant response every time they send you an email. If they don’t get one, they are more likely to follow up soon after sending an email, call or text with “Did you get my email?” 

Nobody likes that. 

2. It hurts your productivity

If you stop whatever you are doing to respond to every email you get, you will never get into the “flow state” that produces some of the most productive working hours of our day. Instead, consider carving out time during your time to check and respond to email rather than constantly diverting your attention to your inbox every time you hear your new email notification. 

3. You don’t give yourself enough time to process your answer

Immediate responses can come across as hasty and, sometimes, downright rude or inappropriate. Give yourself enough time to fully process your response and, perhaps most importantly, enough time to re-read your email to make sure it comes across as you intend. Misunderstandings happen all the time in email, and a lot of them could be avoided if people took a little more time to craft a proofread email, free of emotion and hostility. 

How often to respond to email

A study by the University of Southern California found that the most common response time among those surveyed was two minutes. And, half of the respondents said that they will reply to an email within an hour of receiving it. 

That’s fast. 

But even in our hyper-connected culture, responding to emails immediately is generally not required, and Fast Company reminds us that it’s impossible to please everyone. 

“You can easily be driving somewhere for an hour during the day, or presenting in a meeting and hence unable to respond,” they wrote. “Even if you are available, responding to more complicated requests might take several minutes, which means you could not respond to too many of these within an hour. Simply doing your job means you will be disappointing someone.”

Remember that emails are not text messages and should be treated more formally. The best emails are thoughtful, well-written, and proof-read. Great emails are also appropriate for the recipient as well as the business that they represent and, in general, quality emails will provide more value to the recipient than hastily-formulated fast responses. 

Don’t fall into the trap of trying to please everyone by responding too quickly. Not only will you set unrealistic expectations, but you are much more prone to sending emails that can be misinterpreted as hostile or careless. 

Take more time with your emails. Your career will thank you.