Email ennui: we’ve all experienced it. You finally manage to carve out some time away from your desk and your business, only to have it ruined by: a) anxiety that urgent items are slipping through the cracks during your absence, or b) despair that your vacation will be completely neutralized by the massive mound of email that awaits you upon your return.
When it comes to managing email, a regular old “out of the office” message, stating that you will respond upon your return, will no longer suffice. It’s not engaging, and it’s not useful.
Recently, I’ve seen a few more creative approaches to away-from-the-desk email management:
Approach #1: Auto-Filter for Urgent Items Only
During a recent 99% interview, Hype Machine proprietor Anthony Volodkin talked about his approach to email, emphasizing that only about 5 percent of emails really demand urgent attention. While the other 95 percent are a largely irrelevant or unimportant, tending to this urgent 5 percent swiftly can actually increase productivity. So what to do?
One of the best new apps for managing this task is AwayFind. It seamlessly syncs with Gmail and allows you to create specific filters that identify an “urgent” message – they could be from a specific person, based on key word, and so on. AwayFind will then forward the content of that email to you via a phone message, text message, instant message or Twitter. It’s an easy way to avoid monitoring email on vacation, while also ensuring that you are alerted about any truly important items.
It can also help you speedily separate the wheat from the chaffe upon your return.
Approach #2: Avoid Auto-Blandness with a Self-Marketing Twist
Recently, I received a clever auto-reply from Start With Why author and leadership expert Simon Sinek. Rather than using the standard, “I am out of the office until 4/7, and will respond to your message upon my return,” Sinek personalizes his message:
This is an automatic reply for April 5-7
The WHY goes to the midwest.
I'm in Chicago working with the illustrious Maddock Douglas innovation agency to help one of their clients ensure that everything they say and do reflects their WHY.
The goal: drive loyalty.
I won't have any email access until I return on Thursday, April 8th. Please be patient for my response.
Rather than just sharing a dull update, Sinek takes the opportunity to pass on the latest news – namely, his exciting new collaboration with Maddock Douglas. This style of auto-reply serves the threefold purpose of conveying basic “away” information, engaging and intriguing the reader, and tastefully self-marketing.
Granted, it’s not going to cut down on the amount of emails you receive, but it just may capture the interest of potential client, or help strengthen an existing relationship. Sinek’s approach is a useful study in how to maximize the impact of our auto-replies.
Approach #3: Be an Auto-Rebel and Declare Email Bankruptcy
Inspired by venture capitalist Fred Wilson’s bold move, design blogger SwissMiss recently declared “email bankruptcy.” After giving birth to her second child, the SwissMiss found that her email account was so overdrawn, she’d never catch up. So she decided to delete all the unread messages in her inbox and start fresh.
They key to this unorthodox move is to publicly declare email bankruptcy. That is, make sure you send a message to all your contacts letting them know you’re deleting messages between April 1st and May 1st, for instance. If their message was really important, they’ll send it again. By which point, you’ll be way ahead of the productivity curve, in your newly email-liberated state!
*This post by J.K. Glei is based on research by the Behance team. Behance runs the Behance Creative Network, the 99% productivity think tank, the Action Method project management application, and the Creative Jobs List.
*Image courtesy of SwissMiss