Email wrecking your holidays? Five ways to untether yourself on leave

Guidelines on how to pack and unpack your email inbox for the holiday...

...manage people's expectations about responses. Keep it safe, simple and free from information that might be useful to prying criminals. So, for example, simply say, 'I will not have regular access to my email from A to B. If the matter is urgent please contact X'.

Fourth, provide some guidelines on how to pack and unpack your inbox for the holiday. Here are five tips you should include in these guidelines.

  1. Set your out-of-office message for a day before and after your actual leave period. This measure gives you time to clear the backlog at each end.
  2. If you handle confidential emails, such as those from HR or lawyers, set up some folders and rules to divert such emails. Train senders in the habit of adding the word 'confidential' to these emails.
  3. When delegating, agree a process for the other person to handle your inbox. Tell them about important expected emails and how they should be processed, and how they will indicate what has and has not been actioned.
  4. Set up rules to divert all unimportant emails to either a folder - for example, newsletters - or for deletion - for example, fire alarm test.
  5. On your return, talk first then check your inbox. A 15-minute catch-up with key people will reveal far more about what needs your attention far more quickly than spending hours trawling though hundreds of emails.

Email overload is such a problem that some take a cavalier approach and have all incoming emails deleted automatically. Their out-of-office message explains this fact and asks the sender to resend the email if it is important. It's a bold approach but it does work.

Still feel the necessity to check in while checked out? Limit it to once a day, preferably in the evening to avoid spoiling the whole day.

Dr Monica Seeley is an international expert on email management. She is a visiting fellow at Cass Business School, City University, and has just written her third book Brilliant Email published by Pearson. You can follow her daily email tips and hints on Twitter.