Have you ever returned from vacation to find  1500 new emails waiting for you to process? Kelly Forrister's mentions this new e-mail vacation tax, in her post on obsessive-compulsive productivity.

I recently returned from an extended absence to several thousand emails. I'm now below the one hundred mark, but I'm fighting to get down to zero.
Here's one way to avoid the post-vacation E-Mail vacation tax:

I once read about of a guy who collected all of his spam-email in a folder.  Just before he went on vacation, he dragged all of this spam back into his in-box.  This caused his company mail server to refuse new email and send a "Sorry, This user's Mailbox is full" message to all new senders. When he returned from his vacation, he simply selected everything in his in-box and draged it into his spam folder for future use.

Total time to process new e-mail after a vacation: 2 minutes.

OK, so I probably would not do this and I'm not advocating that you do it either; however, it sure is a tempting idea. I'd go for an "Out of Office" feature that simply returned the email to the sender, explaining that I'm away and unable to process their email at this time.

What do you think?

Discussion/Comments (5):

One way to avoid the post-vacation E-Mail tax

Hi Eric

Some good points here... How about getting back to basics? Like - whose inbox is it anyway? Just because somebody sends me something doesn't oblige me to read it. So, depending on the context (I have several different roles and emails), I see no issue with setting an out-of-office message to "I'm away, I won't read this email, if you think it's important please ..."

In other roles, I hav extensive email message rules set up, so most of the email is already filed, and it's quite easy tosort by date and bulk delete or bulk "mark as read"


Posted at 08/14/2006 23:37:21 by Jerry Ball

One way to avoid the post-vacation E-Mail tax

I would go with an out-of-the-office reminder explaining you are away and provide alternative contact information for those critical messages, but I would also keep in mind that mixed in with that junk and spam might be important mail that fell through the cracks.

How you deal with your email communicates how important you feel others are. If I were a potential client and my message to a vendor was returned because of a full mailbox, I wouldn't think too highly of them. I can keep my inbox processed, so why can't they?

Posted at 08/15/2006 12:48:27 by Wesley

One way to avoid the post-vacation E-Mail tax

Wesley, Jerry, I agree with you. It's best to communicate clearly in all cases. I usually do not use my out of office agent because it generates even more spam, bounced messages, etc. Instead, we color code incoming messages and my assistant looks for messages from key people which she acknowledges and informs them that I will see their message upon my return. Aside from the humorous (and perhaps tempting ) story of the guy who simply filled up his in-box in order to avoid the email tax, I think the greater issue we will have to deal with is the sense of urgency that people have come to expect with all electronic communication.

Posted at 08/15/2006 13:01:09 by Eric Mack

One way to avoid the post-vacation E-Mail tax

Thanks for that one Eric, it was a nice belly laugh on my end. Temptation is just the right word....


Posted at 08/16/2006 16:45:04 by Gordon

One way to avoid the post-vacation E-Mail tax

A slightly better approach:

--You set up a delete rule (delete everything that comes in) with a couple of well considered exceptions (perhaps if your boss marks it critical)

--You set up your auto reply to say that your email has been deleted, here are some other contacts and if you still need to send it to me, send it after I return.

I saw this somewhere and the poster said it worked.

Posted at 09/02/2006 6:25:23 by Tim Davidson

Discussion for this entry is now closed.