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22 Jun

Do you have an overflowing inbox when returning from the vacation?

Datum: 2011-06-22 15:33

Have you expe­ri­enced return­ing to the office after a few weeks hol­i­day only to find that the e‑mail inbox is vir­tu­al­ly over­flow­ing with hun­dreds of unread e‑mails?
Wel­come back!” 

Wouldn’t you agree that this does not exact­ly give you the best feel­ing upon your return?

You bare­ly have time to skim through the most recent addi­tion before it is time to attend a meet­ing. Com­ing back from lunch you pass a glance at the e‑mails mount­ing again. Indeed, a few more have been added to the pile. 

When the day is over and the three meet­ings for today are over with, you only have time to attend to the most urgent mes­sages which have arrived through­out the day before it is time to go home. 

You haven’t even had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to have a look at those which came in last week and you are dread­ing the dis­cov­ery that there are sev­er­al mes­sages amongst them which you should have attend­ed to long ago. Dur­ing the next few weeks you strug­gle to catch up and reduce the e‑mail pile” and you will need to spend at least one night work­ing late to get a grip on the situation. 

Not a very good start…

Don’t be sur­prised to find what you already know

For most of us, e‑mail cor­re­spon­dence arrives in a con­tin­u­ous and con­stant flow regard­less if we are at work or not. 

That one thing is for sure. 

That is pre­cise­ly why you should count on the e‑mail inbox being full to the brim on the first day back at work after your hol­i­day. If you from the begin­ning set aside time for han­dling and attend­ing to e‑mails, you will feel up to speed in no time after return­ing to work, rather than being stuck with that per­sis­tent pile of old e‑mails for sev­er­al months.

Do this

  • When you sched­ule a vaca­tion, make a point of also reserv­ing time to process the e‑mail which will have arrives dur­ing your absence. This may also be a good strat­e­gy when you are going away on a busi­ness trip, unless you have time to process at the same speed when you are away as when you are at the office.
  • Remem­ber that there is a dif­fer­ence in pro­cess­ing the inbox and doing the tasks which pro­duced by the e‑mails. When you are pro­cess­ing, you are only cre­at­ing to-do-tasks, stor­ing or delet­ing e‑mails. You are not com­plet­ing any of the tasks which have arisen (unless they require less than two min­utes of your time).
  • For me it is help­ful to adhere to the fol­low­ing criterion: 
    • Away for one day – one hour to process
    • Away for one week – one day to process

    (Let’s say that I receive between 30 and 50 e‑mails dai­ly. Since I lack co-work­ers, all e‑mails are direct­ed to me per­son­al­ly. Only on rare occa­sions, once a week per­haps, do I receive a cc:-message. So, all in all, I need to explic­it­ly address all e‑mails I receive.)

  • So, when you know the amount of time you will need to set aside, sched­ule it in your agen­da so that you are not avail­able and open to sug­ges­tions for more meet­ings from your col­leagues at these times.
  • Since you might not be famil­iar with this pro­ce­dure, and if you already have made plans to trav­el or take time off, make sure to also add to your week­ly run-through that you should reserve time for the days or hours you will need to catch up, the amount depend­ing on the dura­tion of you absence, when you are look­ing back to eval­u­ate the month that passed and plan for the one ahead in the same way as described above.

At this very moment, do the following

I am guess­ing you will have some time off dur­ing the summer.

  1. Check your cal­en­dar and make an appoint­ment dur­ing the first or one of the first days you are back at work.
  2. Make sure that you are not avail­able for meet­ings dur­ing this time slot, but use the time wise­ly to get a han­dle on the situation.

Sure, the quan­ti­ty of e‑mails received dur­ing vaca­tion-times may not be as mas­sive as it oth­er­wise might be, but it may very well amount to that if you are not care­ful to reserve a sub­stan­tial and suf­fi­cient quan­ti­ty of time to catch up and process dur­ing the first day back. I am more than con­vinced that you have bet­ter things to spend your pre­cious time on.

Nip it in the bud

If you nip the issue while it still has not blos­somed into a prob­lem, you will regain con­trol of you own plan­ning faster than you used to after being absent from work. You will get the tasks which actu­al­ly are urgent now done quick­er since you very soon after return­ing to work have updat­ed and made your to-do-list ful­ly com­pre­hen­sive. You also no longer need to feel guilty over the e‑mails you still haven’t got­ten down to” since you will have made your way through the entire inbox sooner.

How do you do this?

What is your trick to pre­sent­ing your­self with a pleas­ant first day back at the office after your hol­i­day? Leave your best tip in a com­ment to share with the rest of us.