How To Avoid A Flooded Inbox When You Return From The Holidays

How To Avoid A Flooded Inbox When You Return From The Holidays

In just a few weeks, we’ll fall into the final holiday wormhole of the year, and have to make our way back through piles of unread missives on January 2. Here are a few tips to make the return to work and email slightly less painful.

Image via Flickr/Tim Bungert.

Fast Company spoke with author Alexandra Samuel, who literally wrote the book on the subject (Work Smarter, Rule Your Email), and Dmitri Leonov, vice president of email management system Sanebox. Their tips on how to manage your emails while on holiday without actually being constantly logged onto your computer are extremely helpful. Because you’re definitely busy and important, but not so busy and important you shouldn’t take time to relax and drink eggnog with the kids.


Samuel suggests a diplomatic auto-responder that suggests people with urgent email needs write you again on the date of your return. Leonev suggests you tell them you’re getting back to work several days after you actually will:

“That will give you time to get back to the office and actually get stuff done,” he says. “Plus, everyone will be super impressed when you get back to them on the ‘day of your return.’ It’s all about setting up expectations.”

And if you’re very bold, you can theoretically delete everything you got over the break – anyone with something important to say will email again.

Help Yourself And Don’t Send Emails

Both Leonev and Samuel suggested that people should resist the urge to attack their to-do list before a holiday and just. Stop. Sending. Emails. Give yourself at least a 72-hour pre-holiday break from unnecessary conversations. You won’t want to deal with the response anyway, especially if it’s an email to your boss, and they suddenly want to chat.

Filter, Filter, Filter

You can filter out things such as newsletters and other daily spam with most email systems, and also prioritise certain messages from specific people (such as the clients who are paying for your holiday). It might even be worthwhile to make a “holiday email account” that receives forwards from the important folk in your main box, so you can just see at a glance if they’re contacting you. Which brings us to this point:

Um, Check Your Email

Leonev says that spending five minutes every other day to just delete bulk messages from Sephora, or whatever, will save you a lot of time later. He also advocates for just responding quickly to anything that can be resolved quickly. A forward, a “yes” or “no” answer, anything that ends the correspondence – but doesn’t extend it.

“When you reply, think a step ahead to answer any other questions that might trigger another email,” says Leonov.

Good luck with inbox zero, and don’t forget to look up from your phone when the fireworks start!

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