scroll down to see my section “set expectations”.
It’s hard enough managing the deluge of emails that comes in on a daily basis, but it’s an even heftier task dealing with it while on vacation.
For most entrepreneurs, it’s almost impossible to totally disconnect from email for any long period of time.
With 59 percent of entrepreneurs planning to take at least one full week off this summer, according to an American Express OPEN survey, they’ll need to prioritize and set boundaries so they don’t become slaves to their inboxes.
“It’s definitely a balancing act,” says Alice Bredin, a Cambridge, Massachusetts, small-business adviser to American Express OPEN, the small-business arm of American Express.
In most cases, business owners vacationing for a week aren’t going to have a complete email break, and they don’t need to in order to refresh, she says.
It’s partly “just accepting the fact that a great vacation for you is keeping in touch,” she notes.
This year’s survey results show that executives are still confident enough to leave their businesses for a full week. The results are just slightly down from last year’s 60 percent, but well above 2013’s 49 percent, according to OPEN’s Spring 2015 Small Business Monitor.
“To me that says business owners feel confident enough that they’ll be getting the orders they need and customers in the door that they can take some time away,” says Bredin.
Establish limits. If you’re going to stay connected, set limits on the number of times per day or week that you’ll check email, suggests Nancy Flynn, executive director of the Columbus, Ohio-based ePolicy Institute, a training and consulting organization, and author of “Writing Effective E-Mail, 3rd Ed.” (Crisp; $19.95).
Nearly 20 years ago she had a vacation ruined by a client who left her daily voice mail and email messages, she said. They kept missing each other, and when Flynn returned, she realized there had been no real emergency on the client’s part.
That broke her from the habit of constantly checking email while on vacation.
She suggests prioritizing and replying to messages that truly are urgent and require a timely response. Flynn tells clients if there’s something urgent or a crisis, to text her instead of sending an email.
You can also create a VIP email folder, says Steve Davies, president of the Nassau Chapter of The Alternative Board, a business consultancy, and TheTimeEdge.com, which provides time management solutions.
You can flag specific email addresses to show up in that folder; that’s what he does when he’s away.
“If you have 10 key clients that you drop everything for, then you put them in your VIP email list,” says Davies. You can tell them you’ll be away but that their emails will be coming into a special mailbox.
He also creates folders called “filing,” “upon return” and “assistant.” He’ll check his emails once or twice daily when he’s away and won’t necessarily respond to each one, but at the very least he will move them into one of those folders.
Set expectations. Create an out-of-office auto-responder email to let clients know you’re traveling and won’t be responding to emails, says Eileen Lichtenstein, chief executive of Balance & Power Inc. in Westbury, a coaching firm that specializes in work-life and stress/anger issues.
If you can swing it, carve out a couple of days where you totally disconnect, she says. Just be sure to choose those days carefully around times when you don’t expect any pressing demands, she notes.
When Lichtenstein is away, she makes it a point to check her emails on a landline computer at a hotel or Internet cafe rather then constantly check her phone.
“That frees me up,” she says. “It separates me from my phone.”