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I've found that emails that I write with a written suspense on them aren't answered any sooner than ones without a written suspense. Over time, I've tried to figure out how long to wait between successive follow up emails.

-If it is something critical, I may email again the same day or call.

-If it is pressing but not critical, I usually email again within 2-3 business days.

-If is is something I'd like to resolve in the near future, I may wait 1-2 weeks.

I realized everyone is different, and that contacting someone about and issue too often may lead to them treating your emails as less important. Alternative, contacting someone too infrequently can lead them to forget about the issue and not get back to you.

What is a reasonable, professional, and efficient way to time follow-up emails?

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    Are you letting the recipient know your exact timescales in the original email e.g. "Can you provide details by end of day tomorrow so I can meet the due date?" kind of thing. That will play a part on the timing of the follow-ups. Aug 7, 2022 at 21:33
  • @LaconicDroid Yes, and it doesn't seem to help.
    – iwantmyphd
    Aug 7, 2022 at 21:52
  • I often put “I have assumed X as your response and will go with that if I don’t get a reply by dd:mm:yy”. Can be stunning how quick one gets a reply 😀 Especially when copied to the other relevant people…
    – Solar Mike
    Aug 7, 2022 at 22:44
  • @SolarMike I agree with your first sentence, but "Especially when copied to the other relevant people…" won't be perceived well by your colleagues and clog up the inboxes of those in CC..
    – iLuvLogix
    Aug 8, 2022 at 8:15

1 Answer 1

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I don't have a hard and fast algorithm, but I do have a few rough guidelines in these situations.

The fact that you are including deadlines in your initial emails is a big help.

  • If something is required the same day as I'm emailing, after explaining its criticality, I'll offer to set up a quick call that day to run through the deliverables and, if possible, capture the required responses on that call.

  • If something is due by end of day the next day, I'll follow up around lunchtime the next day.

  • If something is due within 3 or 4 days, I'll probably follow up the morning of the prior day.

  • If I've asked for something that's not required for 2 or 3 weeks then I'd follow up about 3 or 4 days before the deadline.

Almost all of my follow up emails have a similar format (by replying to my original email)

Hi X,

Just wanted to touch base on the deliverable for Y. As I mentioned in the email below, we the your input by the Nth so we can meet our deadline. If there are any problems with hitting that date or if there is anything I can assist with, just let me know.

Thanks Laconic

Of course there are many other factors that play into this, and it is as much an art as a science.

These factors include how well I know the person, if they are my boss (or boss's boss), my peer or a customer, as well as other details such as the scope of the work requested (e.g. a one liner vs a 10 page report) and the criticality of my request.

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