Email (let's drop the hyphen)

Or "Why I didn't read your email".

I don’t even have an e-mail address. I have reached an age where my main purpose is not to receive messages.

Umberto Eco, quoted in the New Yorker

Well, apologies in advance, I think. Sorry, but not really sorry. I guess I didn’t have the time.

I usually sleep in, or try to at least. Lucifer’s daughter, aka my dog, starts menacing around 7:30, which means I can’t sleep pass then, not even weekends. I wake up, have something for breakfast, brush my teeth— I’m the son of a dentist, after all, like Mark—, walk the dog, and off I go. On my way to work, I listen to podcasts, then I take the train, and read for half an hour. When I get to work, my mobile gets turned off.

In order to get back home, I walk the previous paragraph backwards: turn my mobile, read on the train, and listen to podcasts until I reach home. By then, on average, I will have received around 90 emails. And by my own calculations, I expect to open most of them, and answer to one, at most. Sometimes none.

I’m not different from you; I’m swamped by email. Any email I’m exposed to is an opportunity to learn more, to meet new people, and sometimes both. But managing my attention implies having to separate what’s wheat from what’s chaff. Some days, there’s so much wheat I’m overwhelmed. Most days, though, emails get send to the bin like it’s nobody’s business.

So, if I didn’t answer your email, it’s probably not personal: It just didn’t pass the filters. It may have a clickbait-y subject, and you should know by now how much I hate clickbait. It could also be too short, or too long. The devil is in the details. The key question, in any case, is: if you were me, would you read it?. You should probably check this suggestions to improve your chances of conveying an email that is useful for both you and the receiver. If it’s important, you’ll eventually hear from me; if it’s just urgent, well, urgent equals ephemeral, and ephemeral equals unimportant.

In the Internet era, where companies like Facebook, Amazon, Netflix or Google have built empires on tailoring the content down to each individual, I’m impressed that people could still regard mass, undifferentiated communication as something useful. Thus, any suspicion that I’m being sent an email that isn’t specifically for me will make me not read it.

In the end, it all comes down to how someone values my time; those who value it as much as theirs will put the effort and from them I expect a well crafted email that has the structure of a hand-written letter. Those usually make my day. I’m looking forward to receive more of those. Is the email you’re going to send me one of them?