Skip to Main Content
by Vault Careers | July 17, 2019


One of the best parts of vacation is not dealing with the constant barrage of emails you receive every day at work. One of the worst parts of vacation is dealing with the crazy number of new emails waiting for you when you return.

To minimize the inbox pain when you're back in the office (and maintain that laid-back vacation feeling just a little bit longer), here are three things you can do.

1. Kill the junk first, and maybe before you get back.

One of the benefits of looking at your email on your smartphone is the quick swipe it takes to delete a message. So, think about employing the quick swipe method to get rid of all the emails you don't need to reply to, or even keep.

Although it's not ideal to have to look at your work email while on vacation, if you can take a few minutes every few days while you're out to get rid of the unwanted and unneeded emails (while trying to avoid looking at any other emails), it will save you a lot of time and headaches when you get back in the office.

With respect to looking at email while on vacation, these days, most employees who've reached a certain level have to monitor email for anything "important" when on vacation, so for them quickly removing the junk should be relatively painless when they're technically "out of the office."

2. Star the most important emails, and reply to those first.

However you like to sort your email, it's going to help you deal with email if, when you're scrolling through your crazy full inbox, you prioritize the emails that need your attention first.

One way to do this is by "starring" the most important. After you do this, once you get to the end of your new emails, you can go to the "starred" folder and start replying one by one. This works like a to-do list in that when you knock off tasks (emails) one by one and see the list dwindling, it's mentally fulfilling; you know that you're getting closer to the end, you know the pain is almost over.

One final thing to note here is not to give in to the tendency to want to reply to the oldest emails first. Reply to the most important first, and only then deal with the rest, tackling either the oldest first or most recent, whichever is easier for you.

3. There's nothing wrong with not replying your first day or two back.

Another tendency to fight against is the one to want to clear your inbox on your first day back. There's no written or unwritten rule that says you have to do that. So, don't overload yourself by trying to get to each and every last email ASAP that seems important.

Note that if you feel like you really do need to reply right away to certain people (like your manager) but don't have the time to construct a thoughtful email, there's nothing wrong with writing a quick message apologizing for the delay in getting back, saying you'll get back as soon as you can, and also perhaps asking if that person needs you to get back right away or if they can wait a bit.

Also, for the emails that you haven't "starred," don't be afraid to take a few days to reply to those. They don't need your immediate attention.

Keeping all this in mind will make your landing back at work after a vacation a whole lot smoother.