4 Ways to Use Email to Vacation Better

Don’t look now, but we are already half way through the summer vacation season. Unfortunately for many of us, the pain of returning to work to overflowing inboxes almost makes taking a vacation not worth it. In fact, 54% of Americans reported not using all their vacation days. This is unfortunate because to remain creative and productive; we all need time to disconnect and recharge.

Imagine this: you wake up on Monday after a week of relaxing on the beach. Instead of being anxious to get to the office and start playing catch up, you yawn, stretch, and hit the snooze button. You can be in a little late today. After all, you are already ahead this week.

Is this how your return from vacation goes? It could, but you have to make technology work for you. Sure, you use your email “Out of Office” notification to let people know you are on vacation. But what if you could actually get work DONE the whole time you were zip-lining in the Costa Rican jungle? To get this kind of vacation experience, you have to go beyond the basic “Out of Office” notification.

“Drowning by Inbox” is the most common post-vacation death. And wading through all the FYI’s to find the stuff you actually need to act on, well, that is near impossible. But by setting up some simple email processing rules in Outlook, you can return to a tidy inbox that has organized itself and delegated tasks.

The first step is categorizing the types of emails you receive and ranking them in order of priority. Here is an example:

  • High priority email sent to you from a specific person (boss, partners, etc.)
  • Emails regarding specific projects.
  • Emails sent to you with your address in the cc: field
  • Calendar invitations

Once you have a list of the common emails you receive, you can create some rules to automatically organize and manage these emails. Here are some ideas for rules that make your email work for you:

Manage High-priority Emails

The one thing you don’t want to happen is missing important emails in the post-vacation clutter. In this example, we’ll create rules to send high priority items to specific folders so they are easy to find:

    1. In Outlook, right click on Inbox in your navigation pane and select New Folder. Name this folder the name of the types of emails we are working with (i.e. your bosses name, a client’s name, etc.).
    2. On the ribbon, select Rules then Manage Rules and Alerts
    3. Click on New Rule to start the rule building wizard.
    4. In the Start from a Blank Rule section, select Apply rule on messages I receive.
    5. Click Next.
    6. In the Step 1: Set Conditions section, select From people or public group.
    7. In the Step 2: Edit the rule description section, click on the underlined words People or public group.
    8. Select the person from the company directory or enter the email address in the From field.
    9. Click Next.
    10. In the Step 2: Edit the rule description section, click on the underlined word specified.
    11. Now you can select the folder you created earlier.
    12. De-select the Stop Processing More Rules option.
    13. Click Next.
    14. You can skip the exceptions section for now.
    15. Enter a rule name so you can remember what the rule does, then click Finish.
    16. Your new high-priority email management rule is up and running!

Manage Low-priority Emails

Now let’s deal with your typical FYI email. Items where your email address is in the CC: field are usually just for informational purposes and do not require a response. Let’s move those into a folder, you can read them at your leisure.

  1. In Outlook, right click on Inbox in your navigation pane and select New Folder. Name this folder CC.
  2. On the ribbon, select Rules then Manage Rules and Alerts
  3. Click on New Rule to start the rule building wizard.
  4. In the Start from a Blank Rule section, select Apply rule on messages I receive.
  5. Click Next.
  6. In the Step 1: Set Conditions section, select Where my name is in the Cc field.
  7. In the Step 2: Edit the rule description section, click on the underlined word specified.
  8. Now you can select the CC folder you created earlier.
  9. Click Next.
  10. De-select the Stop Processing More Rules option.
  11. Click Next.
  12. You can skip the exceptions section for now.
  13. Enter a rule name so you can remember what the rule does, then click Finish.
  14. Your new low-priority email management rule is up and running!

Manage Calendar Invitations

What about those pesky calendar invitations? There is nothing your co-workers like better than filling your calendar with meetings scheduled for the moment you return from vacation. Let’s get those in one folder so you can quickly review and address all invitations at one time:

  1. In Outlook, right click on Inbox in your navigation pane and select New Folder. Name this folder Meeting Requests.
  2. On ribbon, select Rules then Manage Rules and Alerts
  3. Click on New Rule to start the rule building wizard.
  4. In the Start from a Blank Rule section, select Apply rule on messages I receive.
  5. In the Step 1: Set Conditions section, select Uses the form name form -you may need to scroll down to find this option.
  6.  Now go down to Step 2: Edit the rule description and click on the underlined form name.
  7. In Choose Forms, open the drop-down menu and select Application Forms.
  8. Click on Accept Meeting Response (don’t worry, this will not automatically accept all meetings requests!) and select Add.
  9. Select Close to go back to the rule wizard.
  10. Click Next
  11. In the Step 1: Select Actions section, select move it to the specified folder.
  12. In the Step 2: Edit the rule description section, click on the underlined word specified.
  13. Now you can select the Meeting Requests folder we created earlier.
  14. You can skip the exceptions section for now.
  15. Enter a rule name so you can remember what the rule does, then click Finish.
  16. Your new Calendar Invitation management rule is up and running!

Delegate Through Email

So now you have your inbox organized and prioritized. But what if you want to actually get some tasks off your plate? To do that you are going to have to delegate like an executive. Or rather, your inbox will need to delegate like an executive. In this example, we’ll show you how to automatically send emails to your team to manage.

  1. In Outlook, right click on Inbox in your navigation pane and select New Folder. Name this folder the name of the types of emails we are working with (i.e. Project name, client name, etc.).
  2. On the ribbon, select Rules then Manage Rules and Alerts
  3. Click on New Rule to start the rule building wizard.
  4. In the Start from a Blank Rule section, select Move rules with specific words in the subject to a folder.
  5. Click Next.
  6. In the Step 2: Edit the rule description section, click on the underlined words Specific words.
  7. Enter the words you are watching for, then click OK.
  8. Click Next.
  9. In the Step 1: Select actions section, de-select the Stop Processing More Rules option.
  10. In the Step 1: Select actions section, de-select the Move it to the specified folder option.
  11. In the Step 1: Select actions section, click on Forward it to people or public group.
  12. Select the person from the company directory or enter the email address in the From field and click OK.
  13. Click Next.
  14. You can skip the exceptions section for now.
  15. Enter a rule name so you can remember what the rule does, then click Finish.

Your new delegate email management rule is up and running! Of course, you will want to inform your team that you are forwarding emails to them and communicate your expectations for responses.

It’s time to get out of the office!

Squeezing every bit of fun out of the summer does not have to mean doubling up on work when you are in the office. With these email rules as a starting place, you can build efficiency and effectiveness into your work even when you are sitting on a beach. So get out there and make the most of your summer!