‘Apologies for the delayed response’

If you’re anything like me, nearly all of my emails begin with:

“Dear < long-suffering colleague/client/family member >,

 Apologies for not getting back to you sooner!”


And then blowing off the three-day gap between email receipt and my response as though it never happened. There are many reasons why replying to emails always seems like such a burden but I have identified five key principle factors that envelop the others. Feel free to comment or write to me to discuss, just don’t expect a response before 8-10 working days.

1.Legitimate Reasons

Depending on whether this is a working or personal environment, there are, of course, many legitimate excuses that may have gotten in the way of sending the intentioned, prompt response. Obviously for personal emails there are infinite possibilities for events that keep you away from your computer, but in a working environment one could have been in meetings, been on an away day, or working hard to meet deadlines.

Indeed, most “best practice” manuals suggest that emails should be tackled first-thing and then largely ignored throughout the rest of the day. In theory, this is so that you can focus on effectively tackling your core tasks as opposed to constantly responding to ad hoc requests. However, if your core tasks are so boring that they make you want to slowly push an HB pencil so far into your ear only the eraser is sticking out, like mine used to be, emails can actually provide a form of respite. If this is your preferred style of working, then there are other reasons why you might not respond…


2.The Email You’re Responding to Was Completely Pointless

There are few things in the world more irritating than an email sent from a client, a colleague or a relative that are beyond innocuous. “Just a reminder that we’re going to be out of office from 5pm today.” By Christ so am I, you don’t need to tell me that you’re leaving at the end of your contracted hours. “Thanks for sending me the report, please could you also tell me < A FACT THAT IS IN THE REPORT, ROBERT, WHICH YOU WOULD HAVE SEEN HAD YOU OPENED YOUR EYES, YOU USELESS PRICK >,” or, a personal favourite, “Just to confirm our commitment to what was agreed during the (irrelevant) meeting the other day.” Why respond to something so inane that it doesn’t even merit being opened, let alone replied to?

3.You’ve Flippantly Asked Me to Do a Massive Task and Fucked Up My Day Plan

Hi Matt,

 Hope you’re doing well – only five days to go to the weekend!! Haha. (DIE.) Anyway, I know today is the day where you produce three massive reports for us but I was wondering if you could pull all of our sales data from Chipping Sodbury in Q3 of 2011, 2012, NOT 2013, and 2015 and generate a sales pattern chart with analysis for us by close of play?


< Some utter bastard. >

Jesus Christ. I have deadlines for each of these reports, I cannot physically do the thing you have asked me to do and will inevitably get in trouble if I tell you this (especially in the profanity-laden way I want to). Instead I am going to ignore you and hope you forget about it (remarkably, this often seemed to work pretty well).


4. You’ve Noticed I’ve Done Something Wrong and I’m Embarrassed to Face Up to It

Look, we’ve all been there. You had a report to do by COP Wednesday but it was Ben’s leaving drinks and everyone was going to the pub by 4.30pm so you thought that in the grand scheme of things it didn’t matter that much anyway and you’d get it done first thing the next day. The next day you forgot about it but as you were leaving you saw an email from the client marked “URGENT”, closed down your laptop and vowed to tackle it on Friday instead. Come Monday, your manager has been emailed and you’ve been given a humiliating dressing-down and, shudder, have had to let them sit over your shoulder as you pen your overly-apologetic response and promise to get the work done immediately.

It sucks. But also, you got to go the pub, which is way more important. Which leads nicely on to:

5. I Just Don’t Fucking Care.




Matt Underhill