verrry e-nteresting

I received an e-mail this evening from a certain widely respected and extremely productive scholar. Right there, in the signature file of the message:

** I never read my email before 4pm. **

Now, there’s an idea. I mean, I don’t think it’s actually the idea I have the wherewithal or willpower to act upon it myself, but, indisuputably, there’s an idea. Everybody knows, nobody expects otherwise, and you’ve committed yourself.

Author: jeremy

I am the Ethel and John Lindgren Professor of Sociology and a Faculty Fellow in the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University.

7 thoughts on “verrry e-nteresting”

  1. Seems a little pretentious to me. Sort of assumes people are sitting around anxiously wondering why this important person hasn’t replied more quickly…


  2. I’ve also gotten this one:
    WARNING: E-mail remains an inefficient way to reach me. Delays of weeks and months in responding to messages are routine.

    Which I rather like.


  3. This is fine if you don’t rely on email for day-to-day communication with colleagues down the hall and such. But research shows that that is some of the most common use of email. Of course, that may be precisely why this person prefers not to use it. I guess if the person is sufficiently important then perhaps doesn’t mind missing out on certain things or is certain people will just give a call. That’s the last thing I’d want, personally. I note on my voicemail that if people want to maximize the chance of a response they should email me (and then I include an email addy). I find email much less intrusive than phone calls. I guess this person has a different view.

    Interestingly, some of the most productive scholars I know are most likely to respond to my emails at 5am.

    But for other than people we know, do folks really expect to hear back on email immediately nowadays? I certainly don’t and so this message isn’t saying more than what I would already assume anyway (as in, “I don’t respond to emails the day of receiving them”).


  4. It’s a dilemma. The ability to react fast to email is often a good thing: I can answer questions from an RA or collaborator, organize lunch or dinner dates, etc. But it gets really hard to deal with the things that take longer, and I lose track of messages that I’ve looked through but have not answered. Especially when I was chair, I was getting 100+ a day, it was really overwhelming. I never solved this problem.


  5. Like Eszter, I have my voice mail urge callers to use e-mail and not leave a message. As for keeping track of read messages, I created a folder “AA Now” (AA to put it at the top of the list of folders). When I read a message that I need to get back to soon but not just yet, I drag it to that folder. Then — maybe after 4 p.m. — I deal with the stuff in that folder. Fortunately, I’m not so important, even as chair, so I don’t get 100 real messages a day.


  6. A later thought. We have one older faculty member who literally does not read email. (The exception is if he knows something specific is coming by prior arrangement, in which case he will log on to retrieve that particular message.) As chair, I would periodically field angry complaints about his failure to deal with student papers and other urgent correspondence that had been sent by email. I told him to put a note on his course syllabi telling students not to try to contact him by email. I would tell these people to send him a letter or call him, as he does read mail and answer telephone calls. We ought to have our systems people set up an auto-reply for him that says “I do not read email. Send me a letter or call me.”


  7. note: You can’t edit comments after they are posted and I realized too late I had transposed sentences in the above so things are out of logical order. Oh well.


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