How to Take an Email Sabbatical

We all need time off – time when we feel like we’re able to rejuvenate without spending the whole time worrying about the backlog of things we are going to have to deal with when we return.

An email sabbatical is when you temporarily disable or ignore your email account. But you can’t simply turn off your email without irritating a lot of people. Danah Boyd suggests an email sabbatical – a series of steps to let you step away from your inbox guilt-free and return to an empty inbox when you return.

Step 1: Schedule a vacation. This must be a minimum of two weeks so that it is ‘serious’ time off from your computer and your devices.

Step 2: Communicate with all collaborators. Start telling close collaborators about your vacation six months before you leave. Make sure they know you’re leaving three months ahead of time. Be conscious of every to-do and responsibility that you’ve committed to, and continue to remind people that you’ll be gone from Time A to Time B.

Step 3: Public pronouncement. Make some loud public pronouncements about six weeks before you leave to let everyone know that you’ll be unavailable during your vacation. Advise who can be contacted in your absence for anything that cannot wait. This could be a VA who is able to discern between what needs to be addressed during your sabbatical and what can wait, or it could be a member of your team who can look after clients and other important stakeholders while you are away. Warnings are the key to happy relationship maintenance.

Step 4: Warn people via email. Roughly two weeks before you’re set to leave, turn on a standard holiday message to warn people that your inbox will soon become inactive. Make it very clear that if they need anything from you while you’re away they need to ask now. Also send a message to all collaborators and colleagues telling them the same thing.

Step 5: Technical setup. Set up an automated response which advises people to either resend their message when you return or contact an alternate person. You can use the filter tools available on most programs to send everything to trash. Turn on a final warning message 24 hours before you leave for vacation and allow for a handful of last-minute calls.

Consider creating an ‘emergency’ holiday webmail account but only give that contact information to a handful of important people and check it strictly every few days.

Step 6: Take a holiday! This works best if you use as little technology as possible, with the exception of your Kindle and one or two other essentials.

Step 7: Re-entry. Write to all of your main colleagues before you return announcing that you’re coming back to see what they need from you. Set up meetings before you leave so that everyone is certain to get your full attention when you do return.

Communication is the key to an email sabbatical. Disappearing without making sure that everyone has what they need is irresponsible and disrespectful. Don’t underestimate how well people deal with the idea that you’re taking time away when they have full notice. However, when rolled out well, an email sabbatical can help you maintain sanity and give you time to relax and be inspired for your business.

Read the full article here: http://www.danah.org/EmailSabbatical.html

What’s the longest you’ve gone without checking your work email? Does the thought of an email sabbatical make you twitch and panic?


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