Don’t spend your holidays dreading the email volume upon your return. This vacation autoresponder I suggest is a bit daring. Are you bold enough to give it a try?

If you’re a regular reader, you likely recall a post called “3 Easy Steps to Avoid the Flood of Email After a Vacation.” We examine the plight of the person returning from summer vacation and the onslaught of email which usually awaits. One of the suggestions was to create an out-of-office response. In this post, we get a little bolder.

The Inbox Fills Over the Holidays

My background is in education. Teachers are on contract for a certain number of days per year, usually 5-10 more than the number of days students attend. That means when students are out for two weeks at the end of the year, teachers are out as well.

Two weeks provides a long time for email to accumulate in an inbox. And what’s in that email?

For the most part, it’s little stuff that crossed people’s minds. It’s stuff that by the time you’ve returned from the holidays, they’ve already found an answer to the question. They Googled their question or took a few minutes to simply figure something out.

Other times, by the time you return to work, the email message isn’t even relevant. The sender has totally forgotten they sent it.

Yet You Have 1,000 Rabbit Trails

You return to work. But you can’t do focused work. You see the email tsunami. You start working through all the mini-research projects…many of which have either already been handled or are no longer relevant. Yet, because the email is in your inbox, the ball is in your court.

What if you didn’t let the ball get in your court at all? (And yes, I do realize I mixed about three metaphors in this one section.)

If You Dare…

We all know about email autoresponders. In Gmail, it’s called “vacation responder.” Go into your Gmail settings, and click the “General” tab. Scroll to the bottom of the page, and you’ll see it. If you use another program, you’ll have the same capability.

If you dare, compose a message such as this…

Our [office, school…whatever] will be closed for the holidays from December 16th through January 2nd. I will return to work on January 3rd.

Messages received during the holidays will automatically be deleted.

If your message still needs my attention after the holidays, please contact me again on January 3rd.

Sure, you could also create a filter that would automatically delete what reaches the inbox. But, you would also have to remember to turn that filter off when you return, so I really don’t recommend that one.

What you can do is take a quick scan of the emails when you return to work. You may see a few that are mission-critical. Delete all the rest and handle those few. You free yourself from having to read and take action on everything that has accumulated.

What Do you Think About This Approach?

Too bold? For some, maybe.

What would be interesting is to see how many people actually do follow up with you when you return to work.

Look at it this way: If it wasn’t important enough for them to read your instructions and follow up at the appropriate time, it just wasn’t that important.

I would enjoy reading your thoughts. Leave a comment here on the post or come over to the video and leave a comment on YouTube.

We must each take responsibility for protecting our time. Nobody else is going to do it for us. Enjoy your holidays and return with a vengeance for doing work of importance.

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