Years ago it was considered an event when you received an email. Nowadays, with cell phones and tablets, it is one of the biggest ball and chains to your work. These devices have forced your work into your home at night and your vacations. How can you possibly recoup and relax after tax season if you work throughout the vacation?
We all know that the last thing you (or your family) want is you checking your email the entire vacation. I’ll show you how to avoid an overflowing inbox after a relaxing vacation AND get you to stop obsessing about your inbox while you’re away.
1. Schedule time BEFORE you leave to process emails when you get back
Block some time in your schedule right after you get back from vacation to deal with your inbox. Actually block this time off in your calendar so you don’t forget about it and prevent other people from scheduling other appointments for you.
It will put your mind at ease throughout the holiday and you won’t feel compelled to constantly stay on top of email. You’ll know there’s time for that when you get back. Depending on how much email you get, you may need anywhere from 2-6 hours on your first day back.
2. Set expectations
Create an autoresponder and turn it on when you leave for vacation. Let people know how long you’re gone, when you’ll be checking email again (you know the specific date and time because you’ve already set it up in your schedule), and who to contact if they need assistance while you’re gone. You can also include a note that says you won’t have access to email during that time away so their expectations are set that the message won’t be responded to during that time.
3. Get less emails
Start by getting less junk mail. Over the years you may have subscribed to many different lists… to the point where you’re getting over 20+ promotional emails a day. To remove yourself from these lists, use the software Unroll.me. In 10 minutes it shows you all the different lists you’re on and with one click you can unsubscribe from all the one’s you’re no longer interested in (you can still stay on the one’s you want). This has cut down on a lot of morning emails for me.
You can also get fewer emails when you’re gone by sending less in the week before you leave (and less altogether by following the steps outlined in next week’s post - how to write clear emails and avoid follow up questions). Depending on the length of your upcoming holiday, you can start winding down your involvement in short-term projects if you won’t be there to see them finalized. You can also delegate as many tasks/followups as possible from emails to other team members.
Once you’ve confirmed with a team member that they’ll take over, you can respond to the email letting the recipient know who will be taking over that task and CC the new responsible team member. If you feel comfortable, ask the team member not to CC you on all future emails about that project. You likely don’t need to know all the details and it’ll be just one more string of emails to read through when you get back.
4. When you get back
Don’t stress, you know there’s likely going to be a lot of email but you’ve given yourself enough time to deal with it.
- To start go through your email as quickly as possible. Scan your inbox, sort by the sender and delete/archive big batches quickly. This could be promotional emails, thank you emails, anything of low importance that you can tell quickly by scanning. Try not to save newsletters or promotional emails to read later. You likely won’t get to them this time. The goal is to get back to your productive work as quickly as possible.
- Next go through all emails you’ve been copied on. Likely these are just FYIs and you’ll be able to scan them quickly without having to respond.
- Lastly will be the one’s that actually require work. At this point you’ll have some momentum and feel pretty good about having removed so many emails so quickly. These will take some time but you’ve got at least a few hours to read and respond to them.
Laura Berthiaume is the cofounder of Email Stopwatch, (http://emailstopwatch.com), an email management tool allowing managers and users to passively track all the time spent in Outlook on an account by account basis.