Coming back from a holiday can be a bittersweet experience. While you may feel refreshed and grateful for your time off, it’s normal to dread the possible overwhelm when you go back to work. Aside from having tasks that you need to catch up on, you will likely also have a lot of emails to read and clear out. To prevent yourself from getting overwhelmed, here are a few tips to effectively sort out your backlog while allowing yourself to catch up:

Set Up an Out-of-Office Reply Before You Leave

The best way to keep your inbox clean while you are away is to let people know ahead of time that you’re on holiday. This helps set expectations and informs both your colleagues and clients to either contact you elsewhere or wait for you to return. Fortunately, you can easily set this up using Microsoft Outlook or another similar program. Just type a simple and generic message informing everyone that you are on holiday and when you will be back. If you want, you can also provide alternative contact details.

Always assume that not everyone will be aware that you are on break, especially if you work in a remote team where people mostly meet online. By having this automated response ready to go, you can prevent follow-up emails from building up in your inbox while you’re away.

Filter and Categorise Your Inbox

The fact of the matter is that many of the emails that you get from work are not extremely important. Some may simply be announcements or updates from threads you happen to be a part of. However, you usually have to sift through plenty of these in your inbox every day just to get to your more important emails. Making it a point to organise your inbox even before you leave makes it easy to find these emails right away when you get back.

You can manage this by making different folders for several purposes. Using this system can efficiently route and organise the emails you receive by importance. For example, emails from your team can go into one folder, while company-wide announcements can go into another. Sorting out your inbox like this can keep you from feeling overwhelmed when you get back. If you’re not sure how to pull this off, there are Outlook courses you can check out online.

Give Yourself Time to Go Through Your Emails on Your First Day Back

It can be tempting to dive back into your work in full force on your first morning back, but it can end up being counterproductive. If you try to focus on multiple tasks whilst going through your backlog of emails, this will divide your attention among all of them, meaning you may miss out on important information.

Many offices are often slower in the morning, so try to take care of your other tasks later in the afternoon. Keep your schedule clear for the first few hours of the day to accommodate clearing out your inbox. Without client meetings or other activities to distract you, you can fully focus on reading all of your emails, responding to important ones, and deleting unnecessary messages. And by getting all of them out of the way, you can then focus your attention on more important activities for the rest of the day.

Avoid Responding to Every Email

Some emails are meant to inform, while others require replies. Prioritise the ones that you need to write a reply to, especially if it is concerning something serious or urgent. In general, you’ll want to avoid delaying your responses to important emails. As for less urgent or crucial emails, you can just give them a quick read, note any important details, and then discard them.

Of course, some replies are harder to type than others. To hasten this process, you can create different response templates that you can copy and paste for specific situations. These can come in handy for repetitive emails, such as those about company-wide reminders. That way, you can focus your attention on addressing more pressing issues and crafting timely and helpful responses to the emails that matter.

Tackle the Latest Emails First

In addition to prioritising certain emails in your inbox, it is important to focus on responding to the more recent emails that you receive. It is possible that whatever issues your earlier emails were about have been resolved by the time you come back to the office. However, any emails that were sent to you over the weekend or earlier that morning might be about present concerns that require your attention and input.

While returning to work can feel overwhelming after a holiday, you can save yourself from an avalanche of emails by following these tips. You can take things one step further by enrolling in Outlook short courses, too. Knowing how to tackle your e-mail productively can also help you form good and productive habits with long-term benefits. Indeed, you can thoroughly enjoy your vacation knowing that your inbox will still be under control by the time you return to work.

Need help cleaning up your emails after your break? Get in touch with Priority Management Australia today.