April 24, 2014
I spend a lot of time writing and responding to emails. When I get an email, it’s not always clear if the sender needs a reply, and if so, by when. I feel like I need to reply as quickly as possible, but I’m usually too busy to reply right away. That feeling of obligation causes lingering low-level stress, and I wish there were a way to get rid of it.
Adding new metadata fields to emails could help solve this problem. I think these two headers would work:
Reply-Expected: [Yes, No, Optional] Reply-By: [Timestamp]
Reply-Expected would tell me how important it is to reply to a
Reply-By would tell me when I need to reply.
This makes life better for both the sender and recipient. The sender can easily and politely make it clear that she needs a reply by a certain time. If the reply doesn’t come before the deadline, her email application could generate an alert or send a reminder to the recipient.
The recipient no longer has to deal with the stress of feeling like every message needs an immediate reply. He can sort his inbox in order of the messages that need the soonest replies. Maybe the best part is that he can minimize the time he spends checking his inbox for new messages. He could use a service like IFTTT or Huginn to send an SMS alert whenever there are any messages that need a reply within X hours. He would have the freedom to keep his inbox closed without worrying that an urgent message is waiting.