“3 Ways to Get People To Answer Your Emails,” read the headline from a popular leadership blog. Since the “black hole” of unanswered email is an enigma to me I decided to do an internet search of statistics of unanswered emails. What I found was article after article either explaining why people don’t answer emails or why we as a nation are fading away from emails. Blah. Blah. Blah. Apparently we are tired of getting “Forwards” full of inspiration.

We text now and want to get each other quick context. However, how many of us have gotten the 8 part text explaining something that could have been in a short email? We want to use social media. So should I Instagram a picture of a pen and paper with a tag that reads, “Hey, Could you answer my question?” Picking up the phone or talking face to face would be nice, yet sometimes we don’t need to have a long conversation, it can be answered quickly and succinctly via, you guessed it: Email.

Email is a great way to give long bits of information, ask questions, or correspond with someone you don’t know well. It is great if you need to get everyone on the same page with some “news” (i.e. the camp packing list.) Yes, there are times when we need to talk face to face. If you are one office over and my question will easily become 2 let’s actually have a conversation. If I have an issue you with you let’s not discuss it in a space that does not convey tone.

It’s funny because I always hear youth pastors complain that parents don’t check email or read what they are sent. As a matter of fact I came upon a webinar a little while back entitled: “How to Get Parents To Read Your Emails.” However, youth pastors are NOTORIOUSLY known for not answering what comes to their “Inbox.” The excuse always involves the word, “busy.” Yet, somehow some of the most genuinely busy people I know respond within 48 hours.

It’s this simple. We are still sending and receiving emails. It is still the “staple” way we reach out to someone. Until this goes away we need to learn to respond.

Here is what I have figured out so far:

Use Bits Of Time

Take advantage of “pockets” of your day to respond to what comes through. When you set up folders in your “inbox” set up a filter as well. Anything from certain people go into folders that get answered first. Star items that need to be answered quickly if you can’t right now. Create a folder that reads, “Tomorrow” and move items over there that can wait 24 hours.

The 48 Hour Rule

All email “gurus” will tell you that the farther an email falls in your list of “new” the less likely you are to get to it. Make it a rule to get everything out within 48 hours. Create some “standard” messages for those that might have to wait. If you don’t know the answer to a question send, “I will need to find the answer to that. If you haven’t heard from me in a couple of days please touch base.” Then people know it isn’t RUDE to try again. When someone sends you information you were looking for send, “Thanks.” This way they know they know you have it and are looking it over. Some will tell you these are “superfluous” and add to the inbox, but I have found more often than not people appreciate knowing what you are thinking. (Seriously how long does it take to read and delete one word. No one, NO ONE is THAT busy.)

Stop Angry Emails

From time to time parents and others try to confront us via email. I just read a study discussing how we will say things in writing we would NEVER say face to face. Diffuse this IMMEDIATELY. Send back an email that says, “I would really like to talk with you about this, let’s set up a time to meet face to face with the Senior leadership.” Nothing else. Do not respond to thoughts or accusations, (No matter how much you want to.)

Communication is vital. I can give you lots of little ideas, but what will work for you? There are loads of ideas out there to help you manage your time and emails. The problem of course is that the longer the list gets the more overwhelmed we become to answer them. What is it that WILL work for you? It is a double standard with parents. They may never answer anything to you, but if you don’t answer their questions right away they complain. If you want to gain respect and a “right” to push for parents to read your emails, respond to theirs ASAP. Just stop telling me you can’t get to it.

How do you manage your emails?