Researcher Danah Boyd doesn't auto-respond or archive her email when she's on sabbatical — she sends it all right to /dev/null, aka the trash. If you desperately need to reach her, call her mother. Here's her reasoning and methodology.
Boyd is a tech and society thinker who's previously influenced our posts on dumb security questions and using "super-logoff" to control Facebook. She explains in a blog post how and why she goes on true holidays by setting up her email to be empty when she comes back.
When I am on vacation, I am confident that I have taken care of my responsibilities before I left. I have contingency plans set up for anything I can predict might happen while I'm away. I make sure that my brother, mother, sysadmin, and housesitters all know how to reach me in case of an emergency. But most importantly, I know that my email spool is not filling up with a big To Do list that will haunt me when I'm gone. Do I miss things while I'm on vacation? Most certainly. Inevitably, I will receive numerous emails from journalists covering year-end stories about teens, people wanting me to review journal articles, students wanting help with their term papers, and perhaps an invitation or two. I do feel guilty not personally responding to these people to say that I'm unavailable but that's precisely the point. I need to let go in order to truly take a break and refresh.
Not everybody has the kind of job where the boss wouldn't expect — nay — demand that you read your email backlog upon a return from holidays, but for those of us who can see the long-term benefits of being truly away over the short-term access, it sounds just great.
I AM OFFLINE! On Email Sabbatical from December 9 – January 12 [danah boyd/apophenia]