Getting Back on Track with Email After a Vacation

Photo by  chen zo  on  Unsplash

Photo by chen zo on Unsplash

This is the last email in our 3 part series about email management. (If you haven’t read part 1 or part 2 yet, I’d suggest you do!)

You know that feeling. You’ve just been on the beach for a week. You’ve actually disconnected. You finally had time to read that novel you’ve been meaning to read all year. You’re relaxed. You’re happy. You get back to the office excited to tell everyone your vacation stories; maybe you’ve even brought back some treats to share. You sit down at your desk for the first time in a week and you are INUNDATED with email. It feels incredibly overwhelming and you’ve got a meeting in 30 minutes. You’ve gone from elated to deflated in a matter of seconds.

Today I want to talk about how to avoid that feeling, and that situation. So, let’s talk about how we deal with email after a vacation. With a little extra prep, by fostering a little goodwill and setting the right expectations, we can get back on track, and feel in control, pretty quickly.

Let me show you how:

A Couple of Weeks Before Your Vacation

  • Block off the last day (or afternoon) before your vacation on your work calendar as a prep day so that no one can schedule a meeting.

    • Use this time to wrap up all loose ends.

    • Provide updates to others on your team, document where all your current projects are and share that info with your manager and relevant coworkers.

    • Make sure that your colleagues have all the info they need so that they won’t feel compelled to reach out to you on vacation in the first place.

  • Block off the first day you’ll be back on your work calendar so that no one can schedule meetings with you on that day.

    • You’ll use this day to play catch up on emails and voicemails, and to get status updates from your team.

  • Find a coworker who will handle emergency issues for you while you’re out. Don’t forget to promise to return the favor!

  • Block out your vacation on your calendar so people know you’ll be gone.

The Day Before Your Vacation

  • Send out an email to your manager and relevant colleagues documenting the status of all of your projects.

  • Thank your team in advance for handling anything urgent while you’re away and let them know to ask you any questions they have before the end of the day.

  • Set up your “Out of Office” auto-reply

    • Reference the contact info for the coworker(s) who will be covering for you.

    • Indicate that you will respond to emails “the week of MM/DD” to give yourself a little buffer, and to properly set expectations.

When You Return from Vacation

  • Process all of your email (you are aiming for inbox 0 by the end of your first day back; remember? that day that you’ve blocked off already so that no one can schedule a meeting with you and you have time to get caught up).

    • Respond as necessary. (You will probably find that most things have been dealt with already by the time you return, and you can just read the thread to make sure you’re up to date.)

    • Delete all junk and unsubscribe from any mailing lists you don’t want to be on. (This can be a great time to see how much junk you are actually getting, and put a stop to it.)

    • Add any action items that arise out of email to your task list.

  • Have a chat with the colleague who was covering for you to get an update on any developments.

  • Let the know team know you are back and thank them for covering for you.

  • Give yourself a pat on the back for being completely caught up on your first day back instead of scrambling and stressing all week.

You are going to have a lot of email upon your return; no ifs, ands or buts about it. So, instead of thinking you’ll be able to handle it along with your normal workload, set yourself up for success and keep the good vacation vibes flowing by actually dedicating time in advance to deal with what you know is coming.

Staying at Inbox 0-ish