A few weeks ago, I wrote about catching myself apologizing for things I shouldn't really apologize for. In a follow-up to that, I've realized that one thing I tend to do often is apologize to people for not responding to emails right away. It's a bad habit I developed during college in my need to prove I could be a reliable assistant and, eventually, freelancer (when I began to do more graphic design freelancing).
And then it just kind of continued onto my professional life, because in the era of breaking news, you have to be fast – and not just fast, but with precision and professionalism.
The problem with that is then you develop a reputation for being reliable – even on your days off. Because I can literally take my job anywhere with me, I've felt this weird sense of obligation to be responsive 24/7. There have been many moments, too, where people would get upset if I didn't respond on a Saturday night or at 10PM on a Tuesday.
Lately, in an effort to disconnect more frequently, I've tried not to respond to emails past a certain hour of the day or on weekends – not because I don't care about my job, but because I also care about my mental health too (which, let's face it, has not been in a great state these days). The exceptions have been emergencies, of course, but the people who need to reach me in a life or death situation have my phone number, and they would call if the situation was urgent (I think).
But in the course of trying to regain my sanity, I've found myself beginning emails to people on a Monday who emailed on a Saturday: "Sorry for the delayed response...," which I then had to stop and think about. What exactly was I apologizing for? Not replying within minutes, or even 24 hours? And was that something I needed to apologize for?
I've started thinking more consciously about how much I value my own personal time. In the past, I don't think I've valued it much – or, rather, I valued it, but I wasn't treating it with any respect. I was sacrificing sleep, time with my friends and family, my own needs in order to be on standby for others when their inquiry would still be relevant and important 24 hours later.
That took me a long time to feel comfortable, because I still felt guilty when I would get emails on a Friday night and then not respond until Sunday night or Monday morning. "What if they think I'm terrible at my job?" I'd wonder, or, "Does this mean I'm bad at my job?"
The obvious answers to those questions are: "They don't," and, "No." Because it's perfectly normal to not work every minute you're awake.
So every time I start typing, "Sorry for the delay..." in an email, I stop myself from moving forward and press that backspace until it's gone. I know that half of the people who I've written "Sorry" to before don't care if I've responded right away or if I wait a day or three to get back to them, but the ones who've voiced dissatisfaction are unfortunately the ones that stick in my brain. So I'm trying to get out of that habit too of thinking everyone is mad at me, because the chances are, they probably don't really care, as long as I send a reply and it doesn't create any chaotic domino effects, it's fine.
Also, how arrogant is it of me to assume that everyone is obsessively waiting for an email or response from me all the time? Get over yourself, Me!