As I prepare for the holidays, an article about holiday email overload caught my eye. Dave Johnson at CBS MoneyWatch recommends four steps to guard against holiday email overload at work. It got me thinking about how those same rules might translate to the glut of email I get in my personal email accounts – my lifeline not only to family and friends, but all my transactional correspondence with receipts, account statements and special offers I rely on to save money on my holiday shopping this year.
I found a few good tips for maintaining sanity while out of the office, but it’s a bit harder to apply some of the advice to personal email.
Broadcast your plans. Planning to be away from your work email account? Dave’s article has sound advice to reduce email volumes and set expectations on response times by setting an away message using your email system’s auto-responder (available in personal email services like Yahoo and Gmail too). However, with the exception of big travel plans, I’m never really “away” from my personal email account, so I’ll chalk this up to a great tip for work.
Set a schedule. Dave’s got another good suggestion to pre-determine windows to check email. I once worked for a CEO who blocked time in his calendar to do just that, and I know a lot of folks who do a beginning- and end-of-day check of their personal email. At work, checking email at intervals—instead of constantly—can be a great stress avoidance tactic when a question or problem manages to resolve itself in the interim. However, whether it’s my work or personal email, I’m the kind of person who likes to keep up instead of letting it stack up.
Consider declaring email bankruptcy in advance. This one is a biggie. Dave suggests an auto-responder message like: “Due to the high volume of email I will receive over the holiday break, I will delete all messages. If you really need me to see your message, please resend after the holidays or call me directly.” Again, remember that this was geared to a work context. Like the first tip, it definitely sets expectations for folks trying to reach you, but it’s hard to transfer the concept to personal email. For me, a “delete all” approach to my personal inbox would just shoot myself in the foot, wiping out messages I want from family, friends and companies I am eager to hear from (and don’t mind playing catch-up with).
Take a real break from email. There are strong arguments in favor of untethering, but I’m not exactly the poster child for success. I think email—at least personal email—is an important part of our connected lives. It just needs to work better.
Rather than change our behavior to make email work for us, we need solutions that bring more balance to our personal lives. That’s what gets me so excited about ZigMail and the momentum that’s building among early users. The idea of streamlining and organizing emails I want in a way that’s easy to browse before, during and after the holidays, now that’s enough to keep me tethered while I’m watching bowl games.
Let me know how ZigMail is helping you keep up with personal email over the holidays.