After a vacation, not only will you have calls to return and coworkers’ stories to catch up on, you’ll also have your emails to sort through. It doesn’t matter if you’ve taken two weeks of vacation or just a few days off, returning to an inbox overflowing with emails from your colleagues is no easy task. Fortunately for you, we’ve compiled these three easy and effective tips for how to catch up on your post-vacation emails after returning to work.
Set up an out-of-office auto-reply
First things first, if you haven’t set up an out-of-office auto-reply email, then you need to start getting in the habit of doing so before your foot’s out the door. By doing this, you’ll be saving yourself a headache while you’re on vacation and when you return from it. With an auto-reply, whenever someone sends you an email, they’ll automatically be informed that you’re away, and for how long. This might in turn lead them to wait until you’re back before sending you any additional emails. Bonus tip: If you want an extra day to catch up on email when you’re back in the office, leave your auto-reply message for an extra day so you’re not bombarded upon arriving back in the office.
Start with the most recent email
Skim first, react later. Working your way backwards might save you more time than you think. Reading emails in reverse chronological order allows you to process messages in a way that you’ll have the necessary details and the complete picture before drafting any responses. By going with this route, you may come to find that some issues have already found a way of resolving themselves without you having to take the time to engage.
Before you take that time off you’ve been looking forward to (and very much deserve), do yourself a favor and create some basic folders that will help you organize the emails you’ll be returning to after your vacation. Start by sorting emails from supervisors, managers, or directors into what you might consider your ‘high-priority’ emails folder. Next, you might group together all incoming emails from any of your coworkers (although hopefully they’re all aware that you’re taking time off, and so won’t be bothering you too much via email). Aggregating client email chains into separate folders can be a helpful way to slide back into the flow of things once you return to the office. Also, these might be the only emails worth taking the slightest peek at during your holiday, just to ensure everything is still running smoothly back at work. And lastly, you can sift everything else into what you can consider your ‘low-priority’ emails folder, which can, for obvious reasons, be the last group of emails you check once you’re back at your desk.
Lastly, don’t forget that responding to emails right away only creates more emails. Avoid the nagging feeling to respond while you’re out of office by turning off your work email inbox on your phone. Because, let’s be honest, the only thing you should be doing on your phone while you’re on vacation is taking photos. Don’t forget to let your coworkers and contacts know that you will be unavailable through email and that if immediate action is necessary, to get in touch with someone in your office that could help. Then, relax and enjoy your time off!