5 simple steps to email 'holiday' management

Does the fear of returning to hundreds of unread emails drive you to work on the beach? Ian Wooler shares 5 tips for a happy email free holiday.

The recent warm weather, spate of national holidays and advertisements for summer festivals are reminders that the holiday season is almost upon us - but are you ready?  I don't mean 'ready' in the sense of planning, booking tickets, buying new swimwear or bags packed; I mean 'ready' from an email management perspective.

Whilst email management may not be your number one priority when you think about going on holiday - it soon will be.  This is because email has become the core channel of communication and workflow in our organisations and, for many, email is the 'heart-beat' of their working day.  The problem is that in the run-up to going on holiday, the 'email heart-beat' pumps ever faster as demands on individuals to complete work and clear inboxes apply pressure to an already busy work schedule.  Even when successfully managed prior to going on holiday, the email inbox can be a nightmare to return to, with the resulting information overload pushing the 'email heart-beat' to well above pre-holiday levels.  No wonder many find it easier to access and deal with email whilst on holiday - as the alternative appears worse!

But we know that this should not be the case.  Holidays should be holidays.  There must be a better way.  Well there is - the better way is to apply the following 5 simple steps to email 'holiday' management

Step 1:    Think ahead - start thinking about putting your plan and actions in place four weeks before you go on holiday; schedule diary time to complete your final email actions the week before you go on holiday

Step 2:    A week before you go - complete your final email (away) Management actions; draft a meaningful and considered Email Auto Reply and check the content with a colleague; get yourself off unnecessary email distribution lists or unsubscribe to RSS feeds that are no longer of interest 

Step 3:    On holiday - relax and do not think about email - do not take your laptop or office mobile; if you plan to access email whilst on holiday then agree with your colleagues, customers and clients some arrangements/ground rules for so doing

Step 4:    Your first day back in the office - implement your email (return) management plan; switch off your email auto reply and update any email rules you set before going on holiday; talk to those colleagues who have covered your work before you ‘dive into' your email

Step 5:    A week after your return - complete your actions and ‘stop the clock'; reflect on how well you did by holding a short After Action Review; what worked well and what worked less well? What did you learn and with whom should I share this learning? 

Happy holiday!

Ian Wooler is a Knowledge Management Consultant and MBTI® Practitioner.  He can be contacted on ian.wooler@idwconsultancy.com.  Additional information on each of the above 5 steps can be found on Ian Wooler's blog - ‘Taking a thought for a walk...' - http://ianwooler.wordpress.com/2011/05/16/email-management-%e2%80%93-5-steps-for-going-on-and-returning-from-holiday/

Image courtesy of Toastmonster via Flickr.