How to Return From Vacation With an Almost Empty Inbox

The last time I took a long vacation, as I neared the end of the trip, I started to feel more and more anxious. I couldn’t help but worry about all the work that had built up while I was gone. The thought of an inbox filled with thousands of unread emails was enough to make me physically sick. While I didn’t bring my computer and was in a country where I had little internet service, over 40 percent of working adults feel obligated to check their email while on vacation. Some people even say that they dread going on vacation because they don’t want to have to deal with email deluge when they return. While it’s important to unplug completely when you’re on vacation, Business Insider is reporting that it’s a good idea to take the following five steps in order to transition back from vacation to workflow with ease. Here's how to have an almost empty inbox when you return from the Bahamas. 

  1. Set your auto-responder to expire a couple of days after you get back from vacation. Give yourself a few extra days at work to play catch up and sort through your emails. “Plus, when you come back to work on Monday but your out-of-office email doesn't expire until Wednesday, people are really impressed when you get back to them first thing Wednesday morning,” says Dmitri Leonov, the VP of growth for email organization platform, Sanebox.
  2. Install a filter to separate important emails from non-urgent ones. Google filters emails by putting all the promotions in one area. Use these to your advantage. Simply delete all of these unnecessary emails at once when you return.
  3. Filter out recurring emails. Recurring notifications, updates, and company newsletters are only relevant when you are at work. When you are on vacation, unsubscribe to them (or remove them from your calendar), so you don’t have to delete them later down the line.
  4. Triage for five to 10 minutes a day. Separate your email into three groups, similar to the way a doctor would treat wounded at a disaster: those that should be deleted in bulk, those that you can deal with quickly, and those that need to be worked on for a longer amount of time. To fit into the "deal with quickly" category, it should take you no more than two minutes to reply.
  5. Make your action items clear. If you’re forwarding on an email to let a colleague deal with it, be concise about what you want them to do. You want them to be able to complete the task without emailing you back for more instructions—this will only create more emails for you to answer, which is not the end goal.


If you plan on answering emails while on vacation, make sure you transport your laptop in a safe place, like this computer bag.

How do you deal with your email inbox after being away on vacation?