The word ‘vacation’ comes from the Latin vacare, which means ‘be unoccupied’.

In ancient times, wealthy Romans would leave their daily occupations behind to see the great wonders of history. Thanks to the modern wonders of technology, we don’t need to actually visit the ruins of the Acropolis to see what it’s like. However, it has also become a lot easier to never be unoccupied at all, as our inbox can travel with us to almost every destination.

People deal with their inbox on vacation in different ways, which tactic do you use?

manage your inbox while on vacation

1. The Anarchist Tactic

The tactic of the inbox anarchist is to not have a tactic at all. She doesn’t set an out of office, she doesn’t know if she’ll check her mail while away, and when you really want to reach her, you just can’t.

Why this is a good tactic:

  • no worries about crafting a perfect out-of-office
  • when back at work, you won’t have to answer the ‘how-was-your-holiday’ question a zillion times.

Why this is a bad tactic:

  • it’s very inconsiderate for your co-workers and contacts
  • unless you’re a psychopath or really don’t care about your work, this tactic is not going to give you peace of mind during your vacation

Template for your out-of-office:

Nothing, before you leave, you just turn off your pc as you would any other day.

2. The Tactic of the Workaholic

Hey, people check their Facebook and post pretty pictures on Instagram all the time while on holiday, what’s wrong with getting some work done? It’s not like the work is going to magically disappear when I don’t deal with it, is it?” The workaholic knows that he’ll have pretty decent WIFI where he’s going, and he sees checking his emails regularly as part of life, not just work.

Why this is a good tactic:

  • you’ll catch any emergencies straight away
  • less work to be back on track when you return

Why this is a bad tactic:

    • occasionally getting away from work, especially mentally, is necessary to function properly
    • your travel companions will notice that you’re not completely ‘there’, as you’ll inevitably be distracted

Template for your out-of-office:

Hi,Thanks for your email. I’m currently on vacation, and have limited access to email. If urgent, call me on xxx. I will be back at work on Monday, May 27.

3. The ‘Holiday, Celebration’ Tactic

The true vacationer sets off to discover new landscapes, people and cultures mentally as well as physically. She won’t be reading her emails, whether she’s on horseback on the Argentinians plains or sunbathing in her own yard. She carefully prepares for her trip. Her colleagues know she’ll be out, her contacts are briefed, any running projects are handed over to the right person. When she returns, she simply deletes every email she received while on holiday.

Why this is a good tactic:

      • after about 3 days of being somewhat worried over work, you’ll slowly start to really relax
      • by being clear in your out-of-office about not reading or keeping your emails, you come back to an inbox as pristine as you left it

Why this is a bad tactic:

      • some of your contacts or co-workers might find your out-of-office a little harsh
      • inevitably, a couple of important emails will never reach you

Template for your out-of-office:

Hi,I’m on vacation until June 5. I won’t be checking my email, and your message will be automatically deleted. For urgent matters, please contact jamie@mycompany.com. If you want your message to reach me, please send it again after my return.

4. The Bookkeeper Tactic

The bookkeeper likes to live by the rules. Before going away, he organizes his inbox in folders so that any incoming mail is automatically filed by sender or subject. When he returns, his main inbox is empty, giving him that good feelng of being off to a fresh start. For a detailed explanation of how to do this, read Rebecca Corliss’ post about it.

Why this is a good tactic:

      • it helps you feel in control over your inbox while not constantly checking it
      • when you’re back at work, you can deal with the new emails straight away and handle the older ones when you’re ready

Why this is a bad tactic:

      • an unread email in a different folder is still an unread email
      • it takes some time to set up

Template for your out-of-office:

Hi,Thanks for your message. I’ll be on vacation until Monday, March 8.
Please contact jess@mycompany.com for urgent matters.

These are the tactics I have encountered or used, feel free to add your favorite tactic in the comments!

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Ewout is straight-forward and direct. He makes sure we keep moving forward. He’s a friendly chap and never fails to motivate the team to perform at their best.

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