You can take a vacation from e-mail

August 29th, 2013


Tired of going back to work after a vacation to see an inbox overflowing with messages? With a willing helper at the office and some advance planning, you can reduce this.


First, you’ll want to find a helper in the office - someone who is willing to deal with your e-mail messages when you’re away. Yep, its kind of "old school" to consider an actual living, breathing entity to help out, but try it in the spirit of team-building.  And we also understand its not exactly a sought-after position, so you’ll have to promise to do the same thing for your helper when he or she is on vacation. But, by cracky, it just might work - and work well.

Preventive measures

Before you leave for vacation, its a good idea to mention to colleagues that somebody else in your office will be perusing your e-mails while you’re gone. Set up your e-mail so it forwards incoming messages to your associate.

An organized inbox

Next, create e-mail rules so that your messages go directly to your helper while you’re gone. Also send the e-mails to a new folder titled, “vacation.” You can work it out with your helper to place your e-mails into prioritized categories while you're away. And if you need further clarification, you can just find e-mail messages in your “vacation” folder.

A few other tips

  • Turn off notifications. Does an alert pop up every time you receive a new incoming message? Only in the rarest cases is this feature helpful. If instant alerts are pertinent to your job (and you'll know if they are), leave them alone. Everyone else, however: Turn them off permanently. Email alerts are highly distracting.
  • Close email when you need to focus. Close your email application or sign out of webmail when you need to do work that requires real focus for at least 30 minutes. "Unthinkable!" you protest. Try it. When an email program is open, it's tempting to check periodically (or obsessively) for new mail. Closing the program entirely removes the temptation.
  • Use auto-replies for more than just out-of-office messages. If you honestly worry that someone will try to contact you with an urgent matter in the stretch of time that you'll have your email turned off, set up an out of office or auto-reply message that says, "If this is a highly urgent matter, please call me on..." and give your phone number or your assistant's number. You can even set up an auto-reply that only goes to internal employees.

Other sanity-saving tips for email organization have been discussed previously in our blog.  Start your upcoming Labor Day weekend off in an organized manner so you can enjoy it even more!