Procrastinator or speed champion: what’s your email style?

Ng Chong Seng
Lifestyle contributor
Focused young woman working at laptop in office

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Like table manners, our email habits inform other people a lot of who we are. And in a professional setting, how we conduct ourselves in emails can positively or negatively shape our reputation with our supervisors, colleagues and clients.

Below are a few common email personalities I've come across over the years. Which one do you fall into?

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1. The speed champion

This person is known for their super-prompt replies — even when they’re told that the deadline is end of the week. Usually also an Inbox Zero chaser, they always have an email tab opened on one side of the screen, and can’t resist checking emails when they’re in the toilet.

If this sounds like you — great: by getting things moving, at least you know that you aren’t the bottleneck. Your colleagues will love you for this.

That said, be careful that you don’t fire off responses too quickly and miss out details. It’s better to take 20 minutes to send one well-crafted reply than to send one under 2 minutes and then follow up multiple times with additional info or — worse — corrections.

There will be times when we hit the “reply all” button out of convenience without thinking if everyone in the list needs to receive the info we’re sending

2. The storyteller

The storyteller irks recipients by sending a 500-word wall of text to a simple yes/no request. In my experience, this person is likely trying to be the conscientious email type, but being overly careful causes them to unwittingly fall into the long-winded trap.

There are consequences of not getting straight to the point. According to research done by Joseph McCormack, author of Brief: Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less, 43% of people who received long-winded emails ended up either ignoring or deleting them.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s good if your emails are detailed — but only when they’re called for. If there are many points to address, consider staggering them in separate emails to prevent overwhelming your readers.

Replying all in email meme. (PHOTO: Screenshot)

3. The procrastinator

The mortal enemy of the speed champion, this person either takes very long to reply to emails, or only responds until after multiple resends.

They aren’t always at fault, though. Maybe the data you’re asking for needs time to gather; maybe they were offsite and are now just catching up on last week’s emails; or, you know, maybe their emails have the tendency to get stuck in the drafts folder.

But whatever is the reason, if this describes you and there’s no way you can eliminate the delay, the next best thing you can do is to not kill your colleagues with suspense. At the very least, acknowledge the email so that the sender knows you haven’t quit your job.

4. The oopsie king (or queen)

There will be times when we hit the “reply all” button out of convenience without thinking if everyone in the list needs to receive the info we’re sending — and that’s a-okay. We learn and we move on.

But there will be those who are repeat offenders. While it's alright to forget the attachment or carbon-copy to the wrong people for that one email, do it several times and you risk getting a bad reputation that follows you wherever you go.

Thankfully, email gaffes are avoidable if you took the time to double-check your messages before hitting the send button. Just give everything a once-over, from the subject line and greeting to the main body and file attachments.

So what if I’m the X type?

You may think that this is a small matter, but consider this: do you think your boss would assign you to close an important deal if you’re known to be careless?

In short, understanding your email habits and how they reveal your style or personality to others (even if you think it’s wrong) will go a long way in helping you identify and correct your professional blind spots.

Are there email personalities that I’ve missed? Share your experiences in the comments below!

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