Processing email after time away (vacation, holiday, etc.)

Botany_Bill

Registered
I'm sure this topic has come up in this forum already, but I haven't been able to find it:

I'd love to hear how others successfully process email that builds up while away from work for a few days or longer. For instance, is the first day back all about getting email to zero? If other things keep you from processing emails on day 1, how do you handle the backlog? Do you dump it all in a "to be processed" folder so it doesn't get muddy with new messages?

I'm sure part of my problem is that I haven't yet mastered email-to-zero. But there's something about the added backlog after a few days off that makes it mentally harder for me.
 

Oogiem

Registered
I typically get 200-300 email messages a dayu. So If I am gone or not ansawering/processing for a while it builds up. I take several days to do the clean-up. Here is my procedure YMMV

Day 1 - Do a quick scan through my inbox (where all potentially good messages end up) and immediately trash all that I can. I find it helpful to sort based on sender because often I only need to keep the last message in a string, or I have a bunch of email newsletter that I can just dump because they are not critical. I can also scan for the really urgent need an answer now ones and try to handle them at this time even if it take more than 2 minutes.

Day 2 thru X - Start with the oldest messages and actually process them as per normal. My brain can't handle dealing with more than a couple hundred before I'm burned out so this may take several days Along the way if I find particularly sticky ones that will take a long (as in 30-40 minutes to properly handle and process) I dump them into my action support folder. Not ideal but I find it works better for me that way. I more or less ignore the 2 minute rule during this process. I need to get them done in sequence and switching into a new project is not helpful. Delaying the effor to handle it is also not helpful. My goal is to get back to near inbox zero with everything handled in an orderly fashion. I flip between by date and by sender sorting during this process.

Day X thru Y typically about days 3-4. Go back through action support and just do the work to handle those messages.
 

DKPhoto

Registered
Set up a separate email address/account just for handling all the newsletters and stuff that isn’t important.

Then only use your main account for important people, that way you are only expending effort on important emails, maximising the efficiency of the time you give to it.
 

mcogilvie

Registered
I think from the replies you’re getting it’s clear there is no consensus. Personally, I try to keep up with email while travelling to the extent of at least forwarding actionable email to my inbox in Things. If I can’t do that, I will flag such email. On my desktop, I can sort by From, and delete quite a bit; it’s a tip I learned from David Allen years ago.
 

Gardener

Registered
I'm sure this topic has come up in this forum already, but I haven't been able to find it:

I'd love to hear how others successfully process email that builds up while away from work for a few days or longer. For instance, is the first day back all about getting email to zero? If other things keep you from processing emails on day 1, how do you handle the backlog? Do you dump it all in a "to be processed" folder so it doesn't get muddy with new messages?

I'm sure part of my problem is that I haven't yet mastered email-to-zero. But there's something about the added backlog after a few days off that makes it mentally harder for me.
I walk through the backlog making quick judgements about what's obviously not actionable and what could be actionable.

Low priority: That usually leads to about eighty percent being declared not actionable and dumped in the folder of email for the year.

High priority: If anything in the remainder seems urgent, I either (1) deal with immediately or (2) enter a task in my task list for the day and then drag the mail into my "read this" folder.

Mid priority: I put what's left into the same "read this" folder and my inbox is empty.
 

dtj

Registered
First of all, go into the vacation with something like Inbox Zero helps. I pretty much keep up with email while I am on vacation, mostly because I get a manageable amount of work emails and it doesn't infringe on the enjoyment of the vacation. I'm not in a position where I am obligated to immediately respond, even during the work day, so I feel even less obligated on vacation, so basically not at all.

If I let emails pile up, work or home, I quickly whip through them and get rid of the obvious cruft. Sorting by subject or from is probably the best single way of being ruthless, as then the frequent mailing lists are grouped for nuking. It's basically just the same techniques that I use when pare down before vacation, except to don't read queued interesting stuff to get off my plate.
 

John Forrister

GTD Connect
Staff member
For me, part of planning the vacation is planning for after the vacation. I allow for 60-90 minutes of input processing time for each day of vacation. That's for a real vacation without working. I also would propose a later date for any meeting invitations that try to get calendar time immediately after the vacation that would require me to be caught up on a topic that may have changed while I've been off.

For those who say they need to be up to speed the moment they're back at work, I would ask if their vacation budget includes ground transportation to the airport, luggage fees, etc. The time budget deserves just as much planning.
 
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