How to Go On Vacation Without Email Guilt

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Keep the stress of communication backlog out of your "me" time with one simple trick.

There’s a concept in tech productivity called “inbox zero.” It’s a magical place where you don’t spend hours a day responding to emails. In fact, you don’t owe anyone a response.

The originator of the phrase suggests it’s more a state of mind than anything else, but some people take it literally — they want an empty inbox. In either case, the best way to achieve the goal is probably to declare what The Guardian calls “email bankruptcy” by archiving every email older than a certain date (say, more than a month old) to give yourself a manageable amount to clean up.

If you’re like me, there always seems to be an excuse not to do this. “I’ll respond eventually,” you think. (You won’t.) So it may be best to combine this strategy with one discussed by the BBC: saying no to email on vacation.

It’s hard to relax if there’s an expectation you’ll have days or weeks worth of emails to go through when you get back, so erase that expectation. You’re taking a break from the rest of life, so why not the digital one? Look for the option to set up an auto-reply, and do something like this real-life example from the BBC:

“Many thanks for your mail. Unfortunately I won’t be able to read it, as I am taking my annual email sabbatical. From August 1-29 all my emails will be automatically deleted. See you in September.”

If it’s important, people will contact you again. Probably by phone or text, as soon as they see you won’t respond. But that’s better than dealing with another email, right?

For more advice on managing your inbox, check out the video below.

Stacy Johnson

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