Six pre-holiday tactics to avoid email dread

Going on holiday? Here are six email tactics to ensure you can switch off and recharge.

1. Pre-schedule your out of office

Instead of it being the last thing you do – or the first thing you do on holiday because you forgot to set it up before – pre-schedule your out of office, with start and end times. Not only is that one less thing to remember before you leave the office, you also avoid the embarrassment of being told your out of office is still on when you’ve been back for a while.

Consider setting your start time part-way through your last day, so you don’t get that last minute panic when something lands at 4.55 just before your out of office kicks in. As for your end time – how about giving yourself an extra day to catch up?

2. Emergency rules of engagement

Will you be contactable? Will you be checking? Set clear boundaries about what (if anything) you are willing to be available for and if it’s a case of emergency only, clarify what constitutes as an emergency and set a clear procedure for getting your attention – preferably one that doesn’t involve you having to check email.

I usually ask one of the Think Productive HQ team to be my emergency backup contact, and the arrangement we have is that if a client wants to check or book a workshop date, I’m happy to be texted. That way bookings won’t be delayed and I won’t feel the urge to check to make sure I’m not missing them. Personally I’m always happy to be interrupted with news that a client is ready to book.

3. Save in draft

One workshop delegate shared that when he goes on holiday, he asks his team to save in draft any emails they want to send him. Just before he’s due back, they review what’s still relevant and hit send. This saves him catching up on emails that are out of date, and also encourages his team to consider how they can resolve issues in his absence – rather than just ping them over by default.

4. The holiday heads-up

Sometimes an emergency is simply someone’s last minute planning: “Sorry this is last minute but can you just…?” To reduce avoidable crises, give the people you’re working with a heads up in advance, with plenty of notice so that they can get their requests and questions in when you’re still around. “I’m away from the 1st to the 16th, but I’m around all this week, if you want to discuss…”

5. Trust

Ultimately switching off is about trust. Trust in your team to handle things without you. Trust that the work will all be there when you get back. Trust in yourself, that you can pick things up again when you’re back, refreshed, recharged and ready to go.

6. Get your inbox to zero – yes before you go on holiday!

“Won’t it just be full again when I get back?” I hear you ask.

Yes, but it will be full of new stuff – not a mixture of old and new, things you’d forgotten about, things you overlooked, things you’ve dealt with but haven’t filed, and things you should have deleted a long time ago.

Getting your inbox to zero is about clearing the decks, so that you have clarity over what’s dealt with and what’s yet to be actioned (and you’ll be surprised at how that’s often far less than you imagine).

It gives you the opportunity to give people a heads up and set expectations, so if you do need to renegotiate that deadline, apologise for a delay, delegate or say a clear no to that request you’ve been deliberating over – you can do so before you go on holiday, not when you get a phone call while you’re navigating five lanes of traffic in Rome. You’re also less likely to wake up in the middle of the night with a cold sweat over that email you forgot to reply to.

And once you’ve done the hard work of clearing the backlog, you’ll know exactly what you need to do on your return. Coming back will be nowhere near as daunting. As one client found, “My recent return from holiday was also the calmest, least stressful ever! Not only did I totally switch off for a week to properly recharge, but I did not dread that ‘sea of unread emails’.”

Want to get your inbox under control before the summer holidays? Join me on the Inbox to Zero Challenge next Tuesday and banish inbox fear once and for all.

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