You know how it is. You return to work after a few weeks of vacation and the inbox is virtually filled to the brim with unread e‑mails. And as if that was not enough, your first weeks back are packed with meetings since the projects you are involved in did not take a vacation just because you did.
On your first day back you manage to deal with and process the most urgent e‑mails, but you can tell that there are quite a few more you really need to get to in the next couple of days, and you flag or highlight them so that you will forget about them. The next morning you find that you have received replies to the messages you sent yesterday as well as quite a few additional e‑mails. The inbox is bursting with unread correspondence, and the relaxed mode you were in after those weeks off work is abruptly exchanged for a higher pace.
The first week back passes and the ominous inbox hangs over you like a dark cloud, and the thought that you soon, really soon, have to take time to deal with your e‑mails remains at the back of your mind. After another week back you feel discouraged, and in a moment of distress you send all the unread e‑mails into an archive-folder. You justify the action with the thought ”well, if it was something important, I guess they will just have to e‑mail me again!”, but the feeling that you might have missed something important will not leave you alone.
By one colleague for another
A couple of weeks ago, a participant from one of my courses shared a tip which has remained with me since. I do not remember who she was, but I thought it was a very liberating and generous way to avoid experiencing the awful situation depicted above.
”The last time my colleague was going away on vacation, she shared her email inbox with me. A couple of days prior to her return to the office, I checked her inbox and erased all e‑mails which she clearly would not need or be interested in. Some were just junk mail, others contained information which was now irrelevant, and so on. When she returned and opened her email application, the inbox only contained important and relevant e‑mails, and she was able to get up to speed with her correspondence much faster than she otherwise would have done.
The next time it is my turn to take a vacation, she will do the same for me.”
Isn’t this just brilliant? A gift like this from a colleague is truly worth its weight in gold. Just imagine the difference between returning to work with an inbox full of relevant e‑mails and returning to an inbox brimming with miscellaneous nonsense.
If you want to, think about which one of your colleagues you would most like to make an e‑mailing pact with. Who is best equipped to determine what to you constitutes relevant and important e‑mails?
If you know who this might be right away, pick up the phone, send them an e‑mail or write a to-do-task about suggesting a pact the next time you meet them. Set a deadline for the task if you already know when you would need this favor from them.
Vacation to the very last minute
If you make an e‑mailing pact with someone at work, it will be much easier to return after being away for a while. You will not feel forced to start processing e‑mails during your last days of vacation, but feel certain that you to a much greater extent than before will be able to process the inbox within a reasonable timeframe.
Do you have a similar deal?
What is your way of helping each other ease into working again after being away from work at your company? Tell me!