How to Better Manage Email On Your Next Vacation

Whenever you are about to embark upon a vacation, the question of email inevitability comes up. Will you remain online, go offline, or try a hybrid of the two? In this post I provide a brief overview of these options and the system I will use on my upcoming sabbatical.

A Faucet That Has Just Been Turned Off - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/edelmar, Image #2708720

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/edelmar

First of all, I have experience with all three of these options:

  • Remaining online. I think this is usually a bad idea. I have done it many times, and I never feel rested at the end of my vacation. So much of our lives happen online today. If you remain online, nothing really changes except the scenery.
  • Going offline. I try to do this at least twice a year. It is like a digital fast. It detoxes the soul, relieving you from the constant ping of the outside world. It takes courage to do this, but it is well-worth the initial effort it takes to unplug.
  • Trying a hybrid. For me, this is the best option most of the time. It means that I remain online but set strict boundaries for what I will and won’t do. This gives me the freedom to continue researching and writing, without feeling obligated to reply to every email.

The key to pulling off the last option is intention. You must be proactive, outlining a plan and sticking to it. This is the approach I am taking for my upcoming sabbatical.

The basic premise is that I will continue to blog. (For me, this is how I process what I am learning. It is also a creative expression, akin to painting for some people.) I also want to be able to hear from my family and close friends. I also plan to engage in the comments on my blog and in twitter—but to a more limited extent.

For me, the key is eliminating 90% of the emails I receive. That is the part that is taxing. Since being responsive is so important to me—it is now part of my DNA—this means I have to have a system that gets these emails out of my field of vision, so I don’t feel obligated to read and reply to them.

Here’s the system I am using:

  1. Create an out-of-office message that sets expectations. For example, mine says:
    Hi,

    I am on a sabbatical until Wednesday, June 15th. Unless you are a member of my family or a close friend, I will not see your email until I get back. If you have something that requires my immediate attention, please re-send your email with the word “urgent” somewhere in the subject line.

    Thanks,

    Michael

    I doubt that this will get abused. At the very least, it forces the sender to re-evaluate the message and ask whether it is truly urgent.

  2. Use email rules to manage the flow of email. If you haven’t discovered the power of email rules, you are missing out. Most email programs (Outlook and Apple Mail) have this built-in. I place these rules at the end of any others that handle normal processing. Each one is a separate email rule:
    • Urgent. This rule tests the message to see if the word “urgent” (as per my out-of-office message) appears in the subject line. If it is, it leaves the message in my inbox. (In Apple Mail, I chose the “Stop evaluating rules action.”)
    • Family. This rule tests the message to see if it is from a member of my family. If it is, it leaves the email in my inbox. (Again, using the “Stop evaluating rules action.”)
    • Friends. This rule tests the message to see if it is from a close, personal friend. If it is, it leaves the email in my inbox. I have a small list of people here, all of whom know I am on a sabbatical, so I know they won’t abuse this.
    • Business Associates. This rule tests the message to see if it is from a handful of business associates. If it is, it leaves the email in my inbox. This includes my accountant, the person who handles my speaking requests, and a few key people at Thomas Nelson.
    • Sweep Remaining. If the message meets one of the above criteria, the program stops, leaving the message in my inbox. However, if it doesn’t, then this rule moves the message to a folder called “After Sabbatical.” If you want, you can also mark the message as read, so the message count does not distract you.
  3. Implement the plan. You might want to notify your family, friends, and key business associates what you are doing and set their expectations as well. Now simply turn the system on and enjoy your vacation.

This system is not perfect. Your email is still available in folder that you can get to. However, it will be out of your direct line of sight.

The best option would be to redirect the mail to another email account entirely. However, I found that this function did not work reliably in Apple Mail. In researching this on Google, I found others who reported the same experience.

The bottom line is that this system sweeps 90% of the messages I receive on a daily basis, leaving only those message that I intentionally want to see.

Question: What system do you use for managing email when you are on vacation? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://twitter.com/jonstolpe Jon Stolpe

    This was a very informative post.  With vacation season coming up and now that I have a Blackberry, I know I will need to figure this out quickly.  These tips will definitely help.  I usually set my MS Outlook for Out of Office Assistant, but I need to be more active in setting up rules to better control my e-mails while away.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      It really is worth taking the time to learn about rules. You will more than get back the investment of time in terms of additional productivity.

  • http://www.geekforhim.com Matthew

     I would not have a man’s private parts if I checked or even looked at email while on vacation!

  • http://twitter.com/Juanbg Juan

    With devices like BlackBerry, then smarthphones like Iphone, for me it is difficult not to look at the email, after I read the email I feel the urgency to do something, I think the best way is to offline.

    • Karl Mealor

      I feel the same way.   Life may have been a little happier before I bought the BB.  

      We recently visited in-laws in lower Alabama.  No cell service in our particular area.  It was actually very, very pleasant.  It may sound like sacrilege, but I’ve pondered getting a less smart phone in the future. 

      • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

        I have the LG Cosmo. It is great because it doesn’t do anything except for call, text, and 1.3 mega pixel pictures! haha… 

        • Karl Mealor

          I love it!  Don’t know if I have the courage, however! 

          • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

            Yeah! :)

        • Joe Lalonde

           I would love to go back to those days!

      • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

        I have known some people to take this approach.  Although, I don’t know how long they stuck with it.  It would take an act of courage for someone that relies on connectivity for things like work. 

        • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

          I use my data plan for so much more than just email and connections however.  That wouldn’t work too well for me. 

          • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

            I forgot about that part…using maps while traveling (or even finding places in town) is becoming very useful.  And I am looking at doing more with it for my portable information collector (via Evernote/OneNote). 

          • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

            EverNote, GPS, and a few other apps that I use.  And, I’m grandfathered into  AT&T’s unlimited data plan.  If I change it now, I lose that plan, and will have to settle for less.  Good enough reason for me.  You can never have too much of a good data plan. ;) 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      That’s why I sweep them into another folder. Since my folder is “On My Mac,” I only see the messages on my phone that I want to see.

      • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

        Great idea. 

    • Joe Lalonde

      Juan, I agree. I try to tell myself not to look at my device, but I always seem to take a look.

  • http://www.forward-living.com W. Mark Thompson

    Great tips. You’re so clever – putting links to other posts…. getting me to read other parts of this blog with cool, informative, and helpful tips. Now I’m off to read the post on “Managing Email…”.   :-)
    Have an awesome (and relaxing) sabbatical. Blessings.

  • Anonymous

    For Easter weekend I closed my computer completely. This startled my husband and family. It felt great. I didn’t look at email, blogs or anything except to interact with my family. I plan to do that every weekend that my children visit. Monday morning left me scanning quickly – but it was worth the reprieve. We all need time away from technology. We stopped watching TV shows about a year ago – don’t miss it at all. We watch the news and business – that’s it. Movies occasionally through Apple or Netflix. Instead my husband and I talk, walk, read and even play cribbage.
    Blessings,
    Jan

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      It sounds like you are being very intentional. Good for you!

      • Anonymous

        Can you tell me why my name isn’t going to my blog? It used to and now it doesn’t – it goes to Discus.
        Jan

    • Aaron Foster

      Do that when you’re children aren’t there and its just you and your husband. Then that will really baffle him. LOL! I’ve basically started taking weekends off the past 6 months and I honestly can’t tell you how awesome its been for both me and my family. I found out what I was missing and I come back to work every Monday morning completely revived and ready to go vs feeling like its the same ol’ drag. Would challenge you to try it out too.

      Aaron
      PS – I guess that weekend thing must’ve somehow worked out….we have our first child coming in October. HAHAHA!

      • http://Busyness.com Dr. Brad Semp

        Ha ha ha ha – Congrats on your little one, Aaron!  How have you been, brother!?!?  Let’s catch up soon!

        • Aaron Foster

          Hey bro, doing good. Just ready for summer since we finally got rid of the cold and snow here. LOL! Hope all is well with you and Lee. Let’s talk soon! 

      • Anonymous

        Oh Aaron,
        I read this out loud to my hubby this morning. That is so funny. Yes, I could go off on the weekend and maybe that will happen. It is harder when you retire – every day is like a weekend. lol:)
        Congratulations on your upcoming “new life” in more ways than one.

        • Aaron Foster

          I agree that everyday feels like a weekend. LOL! Thanks Jan! 

      • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

        lol!  Congrats! 

        • Aaron Foster

          Thanks Jeff! 

      • http://twitter.com/B_Schebs B_Schebs

        Congratulations Aaron. 

        • Aaron Foster

          Thanks B_Schebs! 

    • bethanyplanton

      Good for you! It is a nice feeling to be able to be away from the computer for most of the weekend. I always feel more rested when I do that.  

      • Anonymous

        THat is for sure. I found I was constantly going to check emails, and just research stuff – which always leads me down some garden path. Better to take a break, then focus on what God really wants me to do.

  • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

    Great tips! I only receive about 5 emails per day so I don’t really have to worry too much! :) 

    • Karl Mealor

      I was getting a ton of e-mails until I started hitting that “Unsubscribe” button.  (I highly recommend that, BTW.)  Now I’m down to only about 10-15 a day.  

      • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

        I regularly do this as well. It is amazing how companies and even non-profit ministries “share” your email address with other organizations, who then think they have permission to spam you.

      • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

        I don’t get too much junk mail on mine…I do get a lot of unwanted emails
        from amazon and different sites like that though… But as far as blogs go,
        I never subscribe by email. I always subscribe via RSS reader.

        • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

          …except Michael Hyatt’s…. right? 

          • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

            Yeah, he is the only exception! :)

          • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

            :) 

      • Joe Lalonde

         I think I’ll start doing that. I get tons of junk email!

      • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

        This is a purge I’ve been working on as well.  I get so many ads that it clogs things up considerably. 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I get about 250. ;-)

      • Karl Mealor

        What percentage of those do you reply to? 

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          Probably 80%.

          • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

            Wow!!! 

      • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

        Wow! That’s a lot! How long would you say it take to go through it if you
        did it all at once?

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          Less than an hour. It is all about making FAST decisions. To me, this is the essence of productivity.

          • http://twitter.com/B_Schebs B_Schebs

            Do you ever worry about making the wrong decision when going that fast? 

          • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

            No, I don’t. What is the worst that can happen? Few mistakes are fatal.

  • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

    I used to remain online even during my vacation. Thanks for the information and the creative ideas. Hope  I should go offline when I go for vacation in future.

  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    Great post, Michael. For short vacations I usually just turn off e-mail entirely. For a week or longer, a hybrid approach usually is best. I put an out of office message referring my business e-mail to our department secretary. If there is really anything that is truly an emergency or requires immediate attention, she will call me. This is usually the best solution. I may get a couple of calls during the week but there is someone on the other end who has worked through them and knows the situation. 

    It is amazing to me how the most urgent problem can wait if someone isn’t available. It’s a great way to truly see what grid in Covey’s hierarchy the crisis is.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      It is amazing how so much of what people think is urgent takes care of itself.

      • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

        So true.  I monitor support emails for my software company, it is amazing to see how many people shoot off an urgent request for help and then have it figured out by the time a reply is made.  Sometimes people just need the push to take some initiative in solving their own dilemas. 

        • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

          I’ve experienced the exact same thing in the church.  I get at least a half dozen “nevermind” emails a week… 

    • Joe Lalonde

      Yup, it’s amazing how urgent isn’t always as urgent as someone makes it out to be. I like to give emails, voicemails, etc… a bit before automatically responding. It’s amazing how many of those urgent items resolved themselves.

      • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

        I agree. There are a lot of things that people send an instant email about,
        and then someone provides them the answer in the next instant.

    • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

      There’s a great little booklet called Tyranny of the Urgent.  It helped me keep things in perspective in college.  I reread it regularly now. 

  • Lkfischer

    We have a very small staff and vacation (if you can call it that) is a phone constantly buzzing and emails chiming. I’ll try this setup for emails this vacation.  My phone just may get turned off and voice mail saying, if this is urgent please call my wife’s number at ….

    Thanks for the great tips

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      The key thing, I think, is to give senders an alternative in case they have an emergency.

    • Aaron Foster

      It’s important for you to set boundaries with your staff and clients otherwise they will overrun your life. When I leave for vacation, since I am home-based business owner, I have an auto-reply that says I am on vacation and if this is urgent to call this number. They know not to call me unless the whole thing is burning to the ground. I don’t mind spending 5 minutes a day on vacation checking voicemail. I just don’t want to get sucked into the 1-2 hours of e-mail.

      Aaron

      • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

        Boundaries are important.  I work for a small software company and customer service has always been important to us.  In the early days we always made ourselves available to help our customers – including after normal business hours and weekends. 

        After being taken advantage of a few too many times, we decided to put in place an ‘after hours support’ policy.  It states our availability, a cost for the support, and a specific phone number to call for leaving a message that will be returned within a certain amount of time.  We have only charged people a couple of times (which was pre-arranged for 24/7 weekend support).  However, the policy has caused people to think twice before calling – having to decide if it is important enough to pay the price.  Now, 99.99% of calls come during normal business hours.

  • Karl Mealor

     Great suggestions.  I find that when I disconnect, it has to be a clean break.  I almost feel like an addict, however.  By the second day, I have this undeniable urge to go check e-mail.  

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      It is like an addiction. If you can press through for a few days, it is amazing to see what happens!

    • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

      Totally agree…it is an addiction; or, at the very least a compulsion.  It takes a lot of courage to set it all aside and to realize that everything will not fall apart if you do not communicate immediately with people. 

    • Joe Lalonde

      Karl, I believe it can be an addiction. I know when I’d disconnect for a period of time, I would feel lost and long for that next “fix”… I think I do a lot better with it now.

    • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

       It can be an addiction.  it’s almost scary how many people can’t seem to let go…  even for a day or two.

  • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

    By the way, I’m curious to how you get the first letter of every post big??? I’ve been wondering how to do that on wordpress.com…

    Any thoughts? 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I use a plugin called Drop Caps.

      • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

        Well, I am on wordpress.com so I can’t use plugins. I know there is a way,
        but I am not sure how…

      • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

        Ha… I was wondering the same thing.  Thanks! 

        • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

          I found the DropCaps plugin awhile back (actually thanks to Michael’s post on plugins a few months ago).  I have really liked using it on my site. 

          • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

             I remember that post, but somehow this one didn’t register on my radar.

          • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

            It registered for me – partly because I was right in the middle of setting up my blog; and, partly because the caps really stood out to me for some reason when comparing styles of various blogs. 

          • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

            I’m going to give it a shot I think…  If you head over to my page, Steven. let me know what you think, please! 

          • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

             After using it, it really doesn’t look all that great on my site, especially since I use some occasional text boxes at the very front of some posts.  Until I can configure it, I’m leaving it deactivated. 

          • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

            I did have to play with the CSS a bit in order to get it to look right (with line wrappings and padding flowing the way I wanted) on my site.  I haven’t dealt with text boxes at the front of the post – there’s got to be some way of making it work… 

          • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

            I may do that later.  But for now, with summer starting to kick in, I’m going to have to put it on the back burner.  It’ll be tough enough to post in June and July, much less tweak my site. :)

            I may ask you for some CSS tips on it when I get to it though, if that’s ok… 

          • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

            Totally understand the time thing – we are in the middle of a marathon preparing for a huge season of VBS’s at church and trips for the family.

            Whenever you’re ready, email me and I will be glad to share what I learned about the CSS with DropCaps. 

          • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

            Sure thing.  Thanks! 

          • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

            I never even realized that he was using this plugin… it looks really good.
            I’ll have to check it out.

  • Toni Box

    I love this post!  This is something most of us struggle with when on vacation.  Email detox sounds glorious!  But you’re right, it’s hard to just put email completely on hold.  I love your idea of using rules…makes perfect sense.  My job revolves around social media so I am constantly glued to my computer or smart phone.  It’s so hard to let go sometimes.  I will definitely be setting up some boundaries for upcoming summer vacation.

    • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

      Since your job is about social media, you might be able to answer this question… Have you noticed the page views on your blog to be really low this past week? I went from an average of 200 to 90 in one week! Just wondering if it is the internet or me?

  • http://twitter.com/seniorcaremike Mike Collins

    There is a lot of “fluff” in blogs today.  Thanks for consistently providing practical, useful information I can put to use immediately.

    • http://Busyness.com Dr. Brad Semp

      Ditto your comment, @twitter-22023172:disqus !

    • Aaron Foster

      Completely agree Mike! This is one of the best! 

      • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

        Thanks, guys!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      You are welcome. Thanks, Mike.

    • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

      I agree!  There are still a few blogs that have had valuable info though… 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ZCQ5Q6QWGQOZRD57EH62ZMHWJI Chris

    When my Wife and I go on vacation, it is usually to someplace where there is no cell service, so I don’t have a problem with email constantly building up on my iPhone. It stays off and locked away in the car.  If we do go someplace where there will be cell service, I temporarily delete my work account from my phone and put it back when I return to work.  I have not had any loss of information doing this and I get to stay focused on my family on my vacation. 

    • Anonymous

      That’s a good idea, too, just removing the account. For those of us who know how to do it, it is a quick enough solution. It’s also easy to remove it when you decide to do so, and the simple fact that it takes time to put it back on will deter you, for at least some time, from doing so when you don’t have to. Nice. 

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ZCQ5Q6QWGQOZRD57EH62ZMHWJI Chris

        I am familar enough with my companies email service that I have can reconnect my email to my phone in less than a minute.  I have never seen it as an inconvience and the benefits of not being distracted from my family totally outweigh the minute lost for me when I get back to work. 

        • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

          I fully agree. 

    • http://Busyness.com Dr. Brad Semp

      Hi Chris – I love your “no cell service” approach!  That is awesome!  I’m not quite that disciplined but every once in awhile I’ll turn my phone off for a weekend and boy oh boy is it a refreshing break!  :)

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ZCQ5Q6QWGQOZRD57EH62ZMHWJI Chris

        My wife and I are avid campers and most of are favorite spots are out in the middle of nowhere.  Besides, I don’t want my boys early memories of me to be with an phone attached to my hand constantly. 

        • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

          Again, fully agreed! 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      On the iPhone, you can just disable the account without actually deleting the information. It works great. I do this frequently myself.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ZCQ5Q6QWGQOZRD57EH62ZMHWJI Chris

        I will look at that before my next trip.  My wife will be especially happy that I can do that.  Thanks. 

  • http://Busyness.com Dr. Brad Semp

    Michael – Nice overview and thanks for sharing!  In my past, I have also tried all three (3) methods and had similar experiences / findings as what you point out and typically gravitated toward the hybrid approach as well.

    A couple of years ago I switched my tactics after realizing just how much time I was spending in my email inbox (~ 2 hours 20 minutes per day) on a regular basis.  Quite frankly, that number freaked me out and so I took action to design a system to reclaim that time.  I designed and put into place a system that I now call “Email for Busy People”……which utilizes a combination of automatic filtering and a human email manager to keep as much email as possible out of my sight.  There is some minor monthly cost associated with making it work (for the email manager) but I find that it is a superb ROI because it has freed up 2 hours per day that I can focus on revenue generating actions.

    The cool aspect of this approach is that there is no longer the need for me to have one system for normal work days, another for travel days and yet another for vacation.  The system remains in place 365 days per year…..with me having to spent 1 to 2 Action Units (AUs) of time per day to manage email (1AU = 15 minutes of focused dedicated time).

    Enjoy your sabbatical, Michael! (but I’m glad to hear that you are still going to be writing!)  :)

    • Anonymous

       Do you have an assistant that you use as your human email manager?

      • http://Busyness.com Dr. Brad Semp

        @pchrismac:disqus I certainly do.  I’ve tried both part-time but dedicated email manager (an individual who works 1-2 hours per day for me just managing my email) as well as a full-time assistant who was one of her responsibilities handles my email.  Both were effective but I’m utilizing the latter approach right now.  It’s all about training……the system + a set of rules on how to manage different types of emails.

        • Anonymous

          Does she access your true inbox, scanning your email and leaving what is relevant for you to view later, or does she forward the emails to another account? (I like this idea, more for a few businessmen that I know who are overwhelmed by their inboxes.)

          • http://Busyness.com Dr. Brad Semp

            Depends on the definition of “true inbox” I suppose.  :)  The way that the system works is that you really have 2 inboxes.  One is a very private one for you to communicate with your spouse, family, close friends & business colleagues, etc.  The other one is for EVERYTHING ELSE.  My email manager has access to the EVERYTHING ELSE inbox.  One of the keys to making this system really work is to minimize the “circle” of folks to who you give out your personal email address.  The fewer the better.

            Every email that comes into the EVERYTHING ELSE inbox is processed by my email manager.  She processes each email according to my email rules template either replying, finding out more information (i.e. for speaking opps, consulting inquiries, etc), deleting, filing (labeling since we use Gmail), or marking them for follow-up by myself.  Hope that helps!

          • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

            I like this idea. How do you find an email manager to work with?

          • Anonymous

            That’s great info. Thanks! 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Do you have an overview of this on your site, Brad. I would like to see what I can learn.

      • http://Busyness.com Dr. Brad Semp

        I do, Michael.  We’re having a technical issue right now with how our blog archives are showing (grrrrrr) but you can hit this older post directly =>> http://busyness.com/2010/04/15/7-step-process-for-email-survival/

        I have the entire system documented with templates, etc built in 2008 (and that I’m still using 90% of it today).  I’ll email these files to you directly for your perusal and use.  We’re also set to release a brand new version of all the documentation within the next couple of weeks and I’ll send those updates to you at that time, too.

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          Thanks, Brad. I look forward to reviewing. Us productivity geeks have to stick together.

    • Karl Mealor

      Just subscribed to your blog.  I can’t watch any episodes right now, but I’m looking forward to it. 

      • http://Busyness.com Dr. Brad Semp

        Thanks, Karl!  Like anything in life the Busyness TV show is a continually evolving creature as we continue to build the Unbusy Society (folks who fight back against the busyness of life that is so commonplace today).  I’d love your feedback once you have had the chance to view!

  • Anonymous

     Because there is so much that can fill my inbox, I like to have multiple email addresses. This way I have one primary that is used for immediate contact with friends, family, church board, etc. I have a secondary that is for blog and other subscriptions, and a third for what often becomes junk mail. The latter two I have had for over ten years, while the primary has changed a couple of times because of moving. On my smartphone, I have set only the primary to notify me of new mail. I also use some of the Outlook rules for vacations.

    • http://Busyness.com Dr. Brad Semp

      Great suggestions, @pchrismac:disqus!  I follow a very similar arrangement with multiple emails that filter to different areas and I agree that setting your phone up with ONLY with one email can automatically keep a large volume of email away from your phone (and away from you!).  In your case, you use your primary email.  I setup my phone with my private email address that is known only by my wife, family and very close friends and business colleagues.  Over time, that list that knows my private email address grows so every year or so I have to change it.  LOL

  • http://www.womenlivingwell-courtney.blogspot.com womenlivingwell

    Thank you for this honest assessment.  I decided to take a media fast this past March when our family went to Myrtle Beach – it really was a nightmare to return to my email inbox!  I still have not recovered lol!

    I will not be able to do that again!  I wish I had spent 30 minutes a day managing my email…so I would not have been so overwhelmed when I returned home.  Live and learn!  I tried – and I must admit it was a NICE break…but too stressful to return to!

    I have found your post to be true!
    Courtney 

    • Aaron Foster

      Believe me though….your family remembered it, so then it was all worth it. LOL!

      Have a great weekend.
      Aaron 

  • Anonymous

    This is a great idea.  Now to get comfortable with the email rules for Lotus Notes.  I have a couple of days off coming up next week, so this will be of great use to me.

    I have also started looking at your online sabatical too.  I will most likely start with a weekend and go where there is no internet availability and leave my phone off.  A great way to recharge the battery. 

  • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

    Michael, I like your suggestion about using rules to filter out all the email that you DON’T want to see until after your vacation.  I’ve tried both going without email on vacation, and keeping up with all my email, but I’ve never tried your hybrid approach.  Thanks! 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      The best thing about the hybrid approach is that half the email you don’t see—or more—gets answered or solved by someone else in your absence.

  • http://twitter.com/Sarah_An Sarah_Anderson

    Hi Michael, nice article. Sometimes I think we need to completely go offline. Unless it is really urgent & I think those events are rare. It is just due to the current expectations for a quick turn around time that people do things last minute, like send an email & expect you to reply within 24 hrs :-)

  • Scott Parris

     Great post Michael.  I ended up working half of my vacation last year due to this.  The family was not amused.  

    Also, I tried to add this post via facebook connect, but I keep getting the following error: 

    “An error occurred with DISQUS Comments [mhyatt]. Please try again later.”  Happened all day yesterday too.  Anybody know how to overcome that issue? 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I don’t know how to solve the Disqus issue. I’m sorry.

  • http://www.yuzzi.com Rick Yuzzi

    On my last two vacations, I was completely off email because I was on a cruise, and refused to condone the ridiculous cost to connect for just a few minutes a day.  Yet, the world went on we me “off the grid”. If I’m able to connect when away, I try to limit that to thirty minutes or so in the evenings to get some things done. I never thought about adding the specifics in my vacation message or using filters while gone. Interesting ideas.

  • http://sefcug.posterous.com/ sefcug

     Great post!

    I too have used all three.

    If I have a deadline while I am on vacation, I do check my email related to that project and that project only (rules set up).

    Since September 2009, I have been setting aside one weekend each quarter to be technology free which is very refreshing see http://bpcablog.blogspot.com/2009/09/computer-free-weekend.html. I think this is necessary, and have been advocating it to other computer user groups members.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I agree with your comment about setting up time to be completely offline. I usually do it twice a year, for a week at a time. I shut down email, Twitter, and Facebook. Shockingly, the world goes on!

  • elise

    I have relied on the standard “I am away from my office and have little or no access to e-mail.” I really appreciate the details you’ve outlined in your post. They’re excellent and time efficient. Wonderful that you are taking this sabbatical. Praying you will maximize this time according to God’s will and purposes for you!

  • Sonya

    Thanks for alerting us to the functions.  I’ve been on Outlook and often like to explore, but never had tested the rules functions other than for right clicking on an email and telling it to go to “junk mail” since we often get a lot of spam. 

    In my job, as an HR Manager, I end up leaving an “I am away” message with Outlook that redirects them to call a certain number with emergencies.  That would probably be one of my managers who would get the call, then call me on my personal cell.  (Leadership team has the cell).  Sometimes I have to help in situations where they do not have an answer.  That seems to work and I don’t have to keep checking in.  I too, feel I have to respond if I see it.  So I DO NOT get on line on my work email when I’m out. 

    I do take lap top home for my own peace of mind though, if in an emergency situation, I’d have it with me and can reach files quickly. 

    Good entry!

  • http://www.kristievosper.com/ Kristie Vosper

     Thanks for going into so much detail Michael! This is so so helpful!! I haven’t discovered email rules, but I’m about to. That’s amazing that it categorizes like this! :) 
    I guess any aquaintences who think they’re my close friends will find out quickly if their email goes unreturned. Haha. :) 

    Happy for you both that you have a sabbatical coming up. How fun. I have Maui coming up…sigh…so this will be great and I’ll still get to use the iPad 2 I plan to get. 

    KV

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Enjoy Maui. I haven’t been in 20+ years, but I loved it when we vacationed there.

  • Karl Mealor

     One thing that has helped me tremendously is that I’ve basically quit Facebook.  My wife and I combined accounts and we limited our FB friends to pretty much just church and family.  I only check FB about once every week or so now.  And the world keeps on going round and round…

    • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

      I have never been on Facebook…it is such a waste of time! I think that by cutting your tme and combinig accounts with your wife, yuo will save a lot of time! I just know too many people who waste their whole days on FB! It’s crazy!

      • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

        I disagree about Facebook. Facebook is what you make of it. If you make it
        a time-waster, then FB is a timewaster. If it’s a way for you to keep in
        touch with people, it’s a connecter. You can use it for marketing, for
        learning, for a lot of different things. It’s what you make it.

        • http://www.bigb94.wordpress.com Brandon

          Very true…I was just stating what I have seen of it though. You are right,
          you can abuse it or use it right!

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          I don’t spend more than 5 minutes on Facebook a day, yet it brings my blog about 25% of my total traffic. Definitely worth the investment for me.

          • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

            Absolutely. I don’t spend very much time on Facebook, either; I schedule
            most of my status updates through Hootsuite.

    • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

      A friend of mine stepped away from his FB recently.  He told me that he spent so much time on it because he  was a collector of information and was compelled to spend a lot of time keeping up with everyone and everything going on.  It has been a great choice, and reclamation of time, for him.

      For myself, I rarely get on my FB.  I use it to communicate with some people on occasion, to let people know about my latest blog posts (done automatically through a plugin), and that’s about it.  I can easily go a couple of weeks without even touching it.

      Of course, email is a whole different story for me… ;-)

      • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

        I’m the exact opposite.  FB is a prime source of connections for me.  As a youth minister, it’s easiest to connect with teens through FB over anything else, even email.

        • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

          I can definitely see that. There are several teens I connect with that serve in our Children’s Ministry and it is usually easier to get a hold of them through FB than anything else (and definitely much faster).

          • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

            Primary mode of communication for most of my teens.  Surprisingly so, considering the lower income, back country town we live in…

          • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

            It’s everywhere man….you can’t escape it…it will always find you… :) 

          • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

            That is so true! 

  • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

    I use the look and see method. :-D

    Actually, you’re making suggestions that I may use in time but I’m not quite at the “tons-of-email” stage. I do like the three options and the intentional focus though.

  • Adam Stone

     I found your blog last week. Your post on creating “my ideal week” has been life giving to me as a pastor. Thank you for posting. 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Great. Adam. I am so glad. Thanks.

  • http://markjmartin.com Mark Martin

     I like the intentionality of this post.  I usually spend more time online during vacations than I should, to the dismay of my wife.   I’m going to think through this options with her before we go on our next vacation. Thanks for giving some ideas we can use to make it successful!

  • Flowsource

    With vacation season upon us, I truly appreciate this post.
    I typically use the Out of Office Assistant and then check emails every morning and evening.
    No sabitical for me. But, it’s either that or face hundreds of emails when I return.

  • http://twitter.com/austinklee Austin Lee

     Ha! This can also be a way for people to email you during your sabbatical and determine if they are a close friend or not!

  • Slamerson

    Dear Michael, 
    I will be on a sabbatical as well (I am an academic so it will be for a semester).  Could you share some advice on making good use of a sabbatical?

    Thanks much,

    Sam Lamerson
    Professor of New Testament
    Knox Seminary

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I would start with the end in mind. What do you want to be able to say to yourself about your sabbatical as you are flying home? What do you want to feel? What do you want to have experienced? Now word backwards from that and make it happen.

      Hope that helps. Thanks.

  • bethanyplanton

     I generally enjoy all your posts, Michael, but I got really excited about the title of this one. I knew it would be full of helpful advice, and it did not disappoint. Having just come back from being away and not having much access to my email, I felt the stress of trying to catch up on everything. I am definitely going to take some of your suggestions for the next time I am on vacation. 

    • bethanyplanton

      I also have trouble catching up on blogs after I get home from a vacation.  

  • http://twitter.com/martinslampreia Martins Lampreia

    definitly off-line and the same goes for Twitter,FB, LinkedIn,etc… If not ,and as you say it is not a vacation…Cheers .Joaquim 

  • Ralph Stoever

     Thanks for another very practical and timely post. I will try this system during my 3 weeks of holiday this summer.  I had not given e-mail much thought.

    As for  Facebook or twitter, I was thinking about setting time limits for checking per day (maybe 15 minutes). 

    In addition, I will carry a notebook or pad. I will capture my own posts with this off-line tool. Later, I’ll just transcribe them and schedule posting as needed. I’ll limit my posting time too, I guess. 

    Finally, I’ll also limit and reduce the total number of posts ( I was thinking about 1 on facebook and 3 Tweets per day)

    Do you have a system for these media? What do you think about the time limits and frequency of posts that I am planning?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I think the frequency really depends on your objectives. I would start by articulating how you want to feel at the end of your holiday and then plan backwards.

  • Jeff

    My greatest struggle in this area is having an iphone that brings it to me.  I really appreciate your sense of “living life on purpose” in doing what you do regarding email, etc…  This has encouraged me to do the same and I hope to have better success on my upcoming 10th anniv. get-a-way with my wife. 

  • Joe Lalonde

    Thanks for the great lesson. I may have to tweak some of your suggestions and use them at my workplace.

    I used to go through withdraws if I did not access the internet while on vacation. Now, it seems like a great a idea to do the GOING OFFLINE route. I’m so connected at my job and home, electronic silence sounds so nice.

  • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

    Vacation?  What’s that?

    I use a similar approach.  I haven’t used rules much in Outlook.  I’ve been looking at that recently as an option to help cut down my email.  But I scan it visually, if it isn’t urgent, I wait til I return to get to it.

    Thanks for the suggestions! 

  • Jmhardy97

    Thank you for sharining this. I am about to go on vacation and you provided a great way to stayi in touch, but with restrictions.

    Thanks

    jim

  • http://twitter.com/isanchez18 Ivanhoe Sánchez

    This came just in time for me.  I’m less than a month away from a two week vacation.  In the past I’ve been in trouble handling my Inbox and family time.  I guess I’ll try the hybrid and apply at least 2 rules.  Thanks a lot.

  • http://twitter.com/isanchez18 Ivanhoe Sánchez

    This came just in time for me.  I’m less than a month away from a two
    week vacation.  In the past I’ve been in trouble handling my Inbox and
    family time.  I guess I’ll try the hybrid method and apply at least 2 rules. 
    Thanks a lot. 

  • http://scottkantner.com Scott Kantner

     Of course, declaring Email Bankruptcy is always an option…though that’s the kind of rabbit you can only pull out your hat one time.  ;)

    Seriously though, I think it’s really all a matter of self-discipline, and I suspect it’s easier for those of us who remember life before cell phones and the Internet.  We have the advantage of knowing from unescapable experience that it’s quite possible to maintain good relationships and get back to business post-vacation with simple high-bandwidth communication: i.e. making a few phone calls.

    I’ve used Tim Ferris’ excellent voicemail greeting suggestion (from The 4-Hour Work Week) with great success.  It is incredibly effective.  When people are actually faced with deciding whether their message is really an emergency, it is pleasantly surprising how prudent their judgement is.//Scott

  • http://www.christopherneiger.com/blog Chris Neiger

     I just went through my inbox today and sorted each email into an appropriate folder. It feels great to have the inbox back down to zero! I’ll remember these tips next time I’m out of the office. 

  • http://www.daveanthold.com Dave Anthold

     The last time I went on vacation / mission trip, I chose to not open my email or if I did I made a point to not answer certain email from people.  Those from work who had my email were asked to only contact me if it was absolutely important.  In addition, as an elder at my church, we conduct a great deal of business virtually.  I also asked them to not include me on the emails, but that didn’t really happen, so I just didn’t open the emails.  When I returned, then I went through the email.  It seemed to work out alright.  

  • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

    Thanks for this, Mike. So just to be clear, you use rules to forward incoming emails to the appropriate folders and then read post-vaca?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yes. The only thing I read are the messages that make it through the email rule gauntlet (e.g., family, friends, etc.)

      • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

        Got it. How many emails per day do you get?

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          About 250.

          • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

            That’s where I am at, too. This is helpful – thanks!

          • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

            Just to clarify, that doesn’t include emails from blog comments.

          • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

            Right. Does that go into a separate folder or your inbox?

          • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

            Those go into a separate comments called (cleverly) “Comments.”

          • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

            Separate folder you mean? ;-)

            That’s a good idea. I used to do that for my old blog. Since I’m using Disqus to moderate blog comments (mostly via email), I may set up this rule. For the most part, I’ve discarded complex filing systems and rules, because it meant that I would NEVER get to certain emails.

            I like the simplicity of getting my inbox to zero by the end of the day by doing, deleting, or delegating what’s in my inbox (thanks to a post of yours I read). Some stuff, of course, I keep for reference and archive into folders. I assumed you did something similar, but it does sound like you use some rules just to manage the flow.

  • http://twitter.com/levittmike Michael Levitt

     A Sabbath from e-mail is crucial for your vacation to be truly restful.  It’s hard to shut off the iPhone/Blackberry/etc.. but I’ve discovered when I don’t turn away from the constant connection, I do not receive the refreshing that a vacation/sabbatical provides.

  • Peter Leigh

    This is really helpful. I have only gone as far as the out of office message part, which takes away some of the pressure to reply or respond to emails, but moving them to a different folder and only allow selected emails through is a great idea, particularly if using iPad or iPhone because it is harder to look at the other folders :)

  • http://twitter.com/mylivingpower Laurie Wallin

    Wonderful post, as usual! I was horrible about email and texting while I was on vacation recently with family. I’m pretty green as an online entity, so I had no idea how hard it would be to do option #3 above… and do it well. Will definitely implement some rules for the next time. And am so excited about this summer at Forest Home camp where there isn’t any technology for a whole week! Ahhhh. Can feel the peace coming even now….. 

  • http://www.jdeddins.com JD Eddins

     Thanks for sharing this. I’m about to go on vacation in two weeks and have rarely set up anything besides an out of office message for the emails that come in. I know my workflow would be a lot smoother if I just took the time to set up some simple rules for my email.

  • Anonymous

    I fall into the category of those who don’t check their emails when they are on vacation. Certainly a rarity in my field (legal community), but unplugging completely is what’s best for me. Those who need to contact me certainly are able to call. Otherwise, I’ll check (and clean) my inbox when I return.

  • Anonymous

     I have always tried to make vacation “vacation” but it usually never works out that way.  I never stay fully off line with a Smartphone, but I do not turn the computer on.  I set up out of office responses for my e-mail and I set up rules to try and make the e-mail easier to work.  I have e-mails from newsletters and other items that I read go to a read/review file.  I then do a forward rule for messages from people that I want to see while I am on vacation.  I have them forwarded to my person e-mail that I get on my phone.  I have work related request moved to a Work! folder that I review when I return.  I do the same with e-mails related to the ministry and so forth.  This limits the amount of e-mails that I have to read on vacation.       

  • http://twitter.com/blackburnmanor Robert Blackburn, Jr

    Great advice! Do you set up the rules in MobileMe webmail  or on the in the
    laptop Mail application? If the latter, doesn’t the laptop need to be on to
    process the rules?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I set them on my laptop and, yes, it has to be one. If you do it on the server side (MobileMe, Gail, etc.) it is better, because (a) it is aways on and (2) you will not see the emails until you are ready.

      • http://twitter.com/blackburnmanor Robert Blackburn, Jr

        Thanks for the clarification. If it is better on the server side, why the laptop? Won’t they still show up in Mail, just in the MobileMe list? (I have used rules extensively in Win Outlook, but only in Mac Mail for spam deletion.)

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          Because it is more difficult for the average, non-tech user to set up. Also, not every user has access to server-side rules. One other factor, is that the redirect (rather than simply forward) function is not reliable in every situation. You want the redirect, so that the headers remain in tact and you can reply directly from where you sent the message.

  • http://www.akstafford.blogspot.com Todd

    We just got back from Hawaii. The wife & I both needed to stay in touch with work, so we set a rule that we’d spend just one hour each day (usually in the evening) messing with it.

  • wendy

    I asked myself once, “Why do I like the dentist so much?”  That wonderful chair offered 30 minutes of freedom!  I found it very difficult to be digitally connected/obligated to my networks when saying ahh…(You know you’re in trouble when a root canal sounds delightful).

    Once a year, our family takes a true vacation.  For 7 days, we are unavailable to the outside world.  I also made the decision to adopt this mindset while watching my my son play baseball twice a week.  (He is young, so games don’t last beyond an hour and a half). 
    The world survives without me.  It was hard at first and I felt accountable to the people listed as missed calls.  I simply re-recorded my voice mail message and auto respond to e-mails with a specific time I would return calls etc. 

    You’re absolutely right, the key is to set informative parameters.  It allows/reminds us to enjoy a physical, conscious, hands on, won’t miss a home run, play red light green light with your kids…LIFE!  

  • Jplynch04

    Michael thanks for the wisdom above and thanks for the website.  I just recently discovered via Donald Miller.  I have promoted the fool out of your website here recently and think what you do has proved to be a great tool to share with both those of the faith and those who are not. 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks so much for your support. I really do appreciate it.

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  • http://shareholdersportal.co.uk/ Jon

     I have a Google Android phone and redirect mails to my personal Google account. I then have filters set up for various things, such as a filter for anything to a specific mail address (that has been forwarded) to send the mails into a specific folder (labels in Gmail) or filters for emails from certain domains which I have identified as sending a lot through which I seldom really read. So as much as possible is taken off the inbox view. I just reply (when a reply is needed) from the personal gmail account, explaining why the different email address (if I feel it needs an explanation). 

    The only thing with this method is that without good filters it is hard to tell what is redirected in and what came direct. A few times I have replied without realising the mail was actually sent to a company mail address. Oh well!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      You can also use one email account to fetch email from your others. The cool thing about this is that it retains the headers intact, so when you reply, you are replying from the original email address.

      • http://shareholdersportal.co.uk/ Jon

        I will definitely look into that, I was thinking that it must be possible to reply from the original email somehow.

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          In Gmail, look under Mail Settings | Accounts. You add additional accounts to pull your email in. You will have to know the email and password for each account you want to add. I also had to have our IT guys turn on the POP function of the Exchange mail server. But now it works beautifully.

  • bethanyplanton

     I am using your out of office reply as a template for setting up mine for when I will be on my honeymoon this summer. Thanks for posting it. It is a great guide. 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Great. I am glad you found it helpful.

      • bethanyplanton

        I always wanted to be direct in it but was slightly worried I was too direct. But since your example had no fluff, I am not worried now. 

  • http://KnowtheNetwork.com Keith

    I’ve got a great tool for you. http://AwayFind.com – I’ve used them for several vacations and absolutely love it. It allows me to send a “vacation message” and says if it’s urgent then use this to text me or notify me. It sets the same threshold and super easy to use.

    When I first used it 2 years ago it was the first time I’d gone without checking email for 3 consecutive days in years.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I have heard of that. I will check them out. Thanks.

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