Using Autoresponders is Not the Way to Manage Email

I saw a Feb 2007 article in CareerJournal (Wall Street Journal Website), and my mouth dropped open when I read the advice below. It is so wrong.

“Emails that don’t require an immediate reply can pile up as you respond to more urgent messages. To get them out of the way, send a quick reply to each with a canned message such as: “Thanks for writing. I’ll get back to you on this as soon as possible,” says Ana Weber, a controller at Binder Metal Products Inc., a Gardena, Calif., manufacturer, who is a part-time career and time-management coach. Then store them in a folder labeled “unread” as a reminder to attend to them later, she says.”

An autoresponder that pops back to every message people send you is on my list of 27 email pet peeves that I’ve collected. Coming from someone who teaches people how to manage email overload and addiction, has written a book about it, and travels nationally doing it, let me tell you…don’t do this.

An autoresponder like this does nothing but contribute to more email overload. You have not helped the writer, and you’ve piled up more work for yourself that you’ll probably forget about.

This is better.

  • Keep the Inbox to one screen by not using it as a database, to do list, calendar, or tickler file.
  • Get organized (paper, Inbox, and computer files) so you can find answers quickly.
  • Use the best software (Outlook) and learn all its tips and tricks.
  • Establish a routine that works for you (and the boss and co-workers).
  • Get into a meeting with your Inbox and deal with each message as you open it.

For detailed help on managing email overload and addiction, check out my book, Conquer Email Overload with Better Habits, Etiquette, and Outlook 2003. For hands on training at your place or mine, visit The Digital Breakthroughs Institute.


  1. I completely agree! It is very close to the top of my pet peeve list. And I have to say that the majority of people who send me an autoreply saying, “Thank you for your email. We will reply within 24hours”….never reply.

  2. I agree. Using an email autoresponder is the quickest way to send this reader away. Email should always be replied to in a personal fashion. After all, you’re trying to ‘connect’ with the sender. Don’t turn the net into a totally robotic experience. Be there, be present, be in the now.

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