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Don’t use urgent email flags to get attention

So you send an email that you desperately need an answer to.  You add a ‘high priority’ flag in the hope that the recipient will action this immediately. However, you might want to think twice before adding a flag and here’s why:

Shouting
People see an urgent message and see as akin to typing in CAPITALS or bold, which can come across as shouting and seem somewhat negative.

Losing value
Add an urgent flag too often eventually causes it to lose its value to the point that an urgent message will get delivered and unnoticed.

What is urgent?
The message might be urgent to you, but the recipient may have other priorities or won’t have time to deal with it as quickly as you’d like.

Irritating
Why should your message be put above every other message? What does this mean to the recipient? There’s  a risk that you will come across as being rude, with the recipient thinking that you have some nerve to speak to them like that.

It’s all relative
If the message is considered to be a 10 on a supposed urgency scale, what would the recipient mark it as?

By default
If the message is not marked as urgent, does that mean its not as important and requires less attention? 90% of emails sent don’t have an urgent flag on them, but who’s to say which one should be dealt with first?

So, we’ve established that the urgent flag is not ideal if you want to get something actioned quickly. So, what are the alternatives?

Don’t use email
It might be much quicker for you to communicate with the recipient in person or on the phone. Sometimes, just using email can comes across as very lazy, when you may get a better, more concise answer by actually speaking to the other person.

Pay attention to the subject line
Using a good subject line is more likely to grab the attention of the recipient, which will define the course of action they will take. This can be very important if they are going to be viewing the email on a mobile device.

Develop your reputation
By not using the urgent flag, you improve your standing. If you only use the flag when it is of vital importance, your message will have true value. This means it is more likely to get opened.

Think of email as an extension of you
Every time you send an email, you are presenting yourself to a business colleague, so it is important to give a good impression. Even if the message is massively urgent, using the flag can come across as a bit desperate and make you look somewhat needy.