How To Ignore Emails Without Alienating Everyone

Wouldn't it be awesome if you could ignore email without ruining your career? You can - if you use a polite, professional autoresponder! Click through for 4 autoresponder email examples from your favorite bloggers and writers!
Friends, raise your hand if you live in your inbox.

(98% of the internet raises their hand. One person in the back is busy flicking through Instagram and eating a messy, sprinkle-covered donut so they don’t hear me, but they probably live in their inbox, too.)

It sounds melodramatic when I say that email is a complex, emotionally-charged issue – but hear me out.

Many of us gauge our success by how full that inbox is – how many client inquiries we get, how many requests for interviews we receive, how many sweet, ‘I loved your post!’ notes find their way to us. If the inbox is too empty, we feel unpopular.

But most of us are also compleeeeeetely overwhelmed. We subscribe to too many newsletters. We get CCed into ridiculous email chains about where to meet for happy hour. We’re asked questions that could so, so easily be googled. If the inbox is too full we panic, ignore everyone, and eat an entire bag of cheese curds while binge watching ‘Silicon Valley.’*

Unfortunately, most of us are used to same-day, within-a-few-hours email responses. I’m one of those over-eager a-holes who has propagated this, mostly in an effort to JUST HURRY UP AND EMPTY MY INBOX. Constantly checking and replying to email serves no one. It ruins your concentration and creates unrealistic expectations.

So what’s the solution? How can we ignore email without ruining our careers? 

1. You (and I) could grow some self-control** and limit ourselves to twice-a-day email check-ins, responding to email just once a day. If we were really smart, we’d do this after we’ve done our creative work for the day.

2. When we start working with a new client, vendor, or collaborator we could make them aware that we’re Once-a-day Email People. We can share our collaboration guidelines and gently teach them how to treat us.

3. We could create a witty, on-brand autoresponder that answers common questions, directs people towards commonly sought pieces of information or sets expectations for response time.

I found four awesome autoresponders we can all use as inspiration to write our own! Click To Tweet

Alexandra Franzen’s 2013 autoresponder

Hello, friend …

Life is wild. Your inbox? Probably even wilder. (Mine, too.)

So: I’m trying a little email-experiment to create some breathing room in the midst of the madness.

I’ve rounded up the top 10 topics that most people email me about — and I’ve answered every single question, right here.

If your email falls under one of the top 10 topics, consider this note your official response. (Ta da! Happy trails.) 

If your email pertains to some other topic — or if you’re my mom, my literary agent, my publisher, in the media, an active client, or, like, the ghost of Oscar Wilde — you’ll get a separate response from me as speedily as humanly possible.

Thank you kindly. 

:: A

–  –  –  –  –  –  –

If you wrote to me because …

1. You’re interested in booking a 1-on-1 VELOCITY session with me.
Splendid. I’m currently booked up for the rest of 2013, but you can hop on my just-in-case waiting list to find out when the doors are swinging open, again. Drop your name + email address on this page.

2. You want to come to one of my Write Yourself Into Motion workshops.
YES! I’d love to have you. My 2013 workshop tour is sooooold out, but you can plop yourself on the just-in-case waiting list right here
. (You’ll also be first in line to register for 2014 ‘shops + events.)

3. You want me to participate in your online event / virtual mastermind / teleseminar.
I’m flattered. Right now, I’m strongly focused on non-virtual speaking gigs, so I’ll probably (politely) decline your invitation. You’ll hear from me, personally. And thank you.

4. You want me to teach at your live event / conference / retreat.

I’m honored. I’ll respond when I can. I love face-to-face shindigs.

5. You want to interview me for your magazine, podcast or blog.
How delightful! I’ll respond when I can (and my answer will probably be YES). In the meantime, you can scope out my favorite interview topics + grab my headshot and bio, over here.

6. You’re looking for a web designer (or virtual assistant, or illustrator, or personal shaman) and wonder who I’d recommend.
All of my favorite humans (and tools) are curated right here. (You can even take a detailed backstage tour of my business, over here.)

7. You have a question (about your life, your business, or your writing) and wonder what I think about it.
I love inquisitive + curious people, but I appreciate self-reliant people even more. 😉

I recommend using the almighty Google (and your own intuition) to answer your own question. Because you are so darn smart. And because I probably won’t send a personal response for a very long time (or maybe at all.)

8. You bought one of my digital products but never received a download link. (Or the link expired.)
Your download link was delivered to the email address associated with your PayPal account. Check that inbox, first.

Don’t see it? Check your spam box, too.

9. You’re doing amazing work in the world and wonder if I’ll help you promote it (with a tweet, a shout-out to my readers, a fireworks ceremony, etc.)
I’m so proud of you. But unless I’ve personally experienced your work, have collaborated with you in the past, or consider you a close + trusted friend, the answer is probably “no.” Thank you for understanding.

10. You just want to say “hello” and introduce yourself
I think that’s grand. I’ll respond when I can. (And if your note happens to include a sweet compliment or a nice story, I’ll put it in my Permanent Happy File. And keep it. Forever.

Keep reaching out to people you dig.

Rachel MacDonald’s autoresponder

Hi there, 

Lovely to hear from you. 

I’m currently spending significantly less time in my inbox — *however,* let me see if I can help you with your inquiry right now. 

Below are a handful of responses to the questions that frequently land here, that may just help: 

When are you running Bright-Eyed & Blog-Hearted again? I missed the
last enrollment, but MUST get on board (lemme in!)
Sad news: Enrollments are closed until 2016. 

Can I hire you as my coach?
I’m currently (gratefully) completely booked for 2015. 

I’ve created a new product. Can you please review it/ write me a testimonial?
Huge congrats on your new offering. I’ve had to significantly pull back on reviews and testimonials (but thank you so much for asking). May your launch be a smashing success. 

Can I guest blog for you? Can you guest blog for me? Can I interview you?
To laser-focus on my own writing, I’m not currently doing interviews and guest posts (and I don’t feature guest posts on my site.) Know that your request has been received with a smile and much gratitude. 

I work for brand/ advertising agency and want to feature an ad on your site/ talk about sponsored posts. 

My site is ad-free, and sponsored posts aren’t part of my editorial mix. 

I’d also love to point you in the direction of the two eBooks I wrote with my dear friend Tara Bliss — Spirited and the Spirited 2015 Companion — in which we explore a lot of the themes and big life stuff that we’ve learnt on our own journeys and as coaches.

If you’re a gorgeous coaching client of mine, you are my priority and I will be in touch very soon.

Thank you again for reaching out,   

Rach x

Jess Larsen’s auto responder

Hi there,

Thanks so much for your email — you rock, and I’m so glad you got in touch. I’ll make sure I get back to you as soon as I can, usually within the next two business days. 

In the meantime, here are the answers to some commonly asked questions:

 * What’s the correct way to use semi colons?

Damned if I know! No — jokes aside, someone asked me this the other day, and I think it’s something that a LOT of people struggle with in their writing. If you’ve been throwing these little guys into your work without *really* knowing what you’re doing, here’s a great explanation to get you on the right track (includes a picture of a gorilla in a party hat — you’re welcome!) –> http://theoatmeal.com/comics/semicolon 

* What’s your favourite word?

This month: ‘trollied’ and ‘tangential’. Extra brownie points if they’re in the same sentence. 

* I want to write a book. What’s the best way to get started?

Check this out –> http://www.hellowordsmith.com/stop-wishing-start-working/ 

* Do unicorns exist?

Yes. (Duh!) 

All love,
Jess

Connie Chapman’s autoresponder

Hello!

Thank you for taking the time to get in touch. This is a little note to let you know your email has been received, but please allow 2-3 days for a response. 

In the meantime, perhaps some of this may be helpful…

+ Interested in working 1:1 with me?
I have now re-opened my coaching calendar for the second half of 2015 and I am taking bookings for new clients. 

Read more about my 1:1 Coaching Programs here.

Or email connie@conniechapman.com if you would like to book a complimentary 20 minute Discovery Session to explore which coaching option is best for you. 

+ Want to interview or feature me?
Thank you so much for thinking of me! These days I am dedicating less time to interviews and guest posts, but I am still interested to hear about your opportunity. I will be back in touch to let you know if I can be a part of it. 

+ Want some support?
I am unable to provide coaching guidance via email, as I reserve this level of support for my 1:1 clients. 

Instead, please feel free to;

1) Check out my blog which is jam-packed full of beautiful, life-changing wisdom and tips.

2) Join my signature 3 month online program The 90 Day Transformation Project.

3) ) Download a copy of my Guided Mediations For Inner Transformation Album to create more inner peace, balance and bliss.

4) Tune into an episode of Awaken Radio for some soul-stirring conversation. 

Finally, I love connecting on social media so come and hangout with me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

If you are one of my 1:1 clients, you are my priority and I will back in touch with you asap.

With love,
Connie x

….

Amazing, right?

If I emailed any of these ladies, I’d know when or if to expect a response and I’d know more about their work.

When Alex and I were emailing back and forth about the art of auto responding she shared her clever, clever formula:

– a brief description of what you’re doing right now, where you are, why this auto-responder is turned on.

– some expectation setting: “you can expect to hear back from me by…” or “I generally respond to emails within xx days…” or “I get back from my trip on DATE, and I’ll be digging into my emails then…”

– at least three delightful things that the email sender can do while they are waiting for a personal response.

– cool song and/or video.

One enormous side note about using auto responders:

If you regularly correspond with someone – if they’re your client, your close friend, a vendor, or you’re in the middle of an important email exchange – turn the autoresponder off for them. It can feel impersonal and unprofessional to receive an auto responder from someone you email every day.

Here’s how to turn off your autoresponder for specific people in Outlook and here are instruction for Gmail.

How do you feel about auto responders? Helpful for managing expectations or annoying and impersonal? If you know of anyone else who has a particularly good auto responder, leave links in the comments!

* Or is that just me?
** If you know how to do this, please teach me

P.S. The life-changing magic of intentional ignorance.

photo by Allef Vinicius // cc

9 Comments

Rebecca

This post is hilarious and insanely brilliant at the same time. I love how cleverly written these auto responders are without being all “I’m too busy to reply to you so I’ll just send you links to my posts”. They’ve definitely made me think of ways I can do this to streamline my process! They show so much personality too, whilst maintaining professionalism – such a great way to connect with people! Thanks so much for writing/sharing Sarah!

Rebecca (Autumn Leaves)

Reply
Mary

Thanks do very much for these tips: I also get lots of email (by my standards) and I can’t take breaks five times a day to check and keep up email by email.
I’ve been instituting an auto-reply for the past year or so, and I’ve been afraid it’s too off-putting, though it does contain a lot of answers to commonly asked questions.
I love the idea of telling them why I can’t answer emails right this second, because my job is interesting and I get lots of questions about it anyway.
Can’t wait to update the auto-reply today!

Reply
Katie

I’m half way to only checking a few times a day. I’m unemployed so I check it a lot these days, but I did turn my phone so that it only pulls emails when I open up mail. So if I’m out and about with friends I’m not glued to my phone looking at emails that can wait.

And while I was in South America earlier this month I sent my auto away, but had it set so that it didn’t re-send if I emailed the person back.

Reply
Kim

I freaking love this. A friend of mine, the lovely Lisa of Elembee, did this a long time ago. And so I did it too. And now we’re all email happy.

Sending this to my dad right now, who seems to live more than most in his inbox. I told him this technique decades ago (okay, not really but it feels like it) and he doesn’t believe it’s a thing. He’s stuck in ’90s internet age!

Reply
Rachael

This is brilliant and completely fortuitous as I am about to leave for a 2-month long vacation overseas. I do not want to be glued to my inbox – especially when 7 out 10 emails are impersonal press releases. I’d been wanting a way to deal with them and this offers me the perfect opportunity to be whimsical about it. I now have an Auto-Responder set to (hopefully) filter out these emails and be informative, polite and a little humorous as well. I closed my auto-respond email with a link to a funny (official) Doctor Who video of the cast/crew dancing to 500 Miles 😀
thank you, Sarah, Alex, Rach, Jess and Connie!

Reply
Andréa Jones

I love these tips! I had no idea you could turn off an autoresponder for a specific person. Definitely good to know.

Thanks for this post, Sarah!

Reply
Lauren

Love, love, LOVE this! I’ve been trying to work out ways when I go back to work in October that I can manage my time better and this has just opened up something I didn’t think was possible. I’m in the media and everyone is always after a response immediately. This is going to free up so much time because I do get a lot of the same questions all the time. Being able to turn off the auto responder for certain people is also brilliant info. Thank you!!

Reply

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