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The first day of fall isn’t until September 22, but it’s a universally acknowledged truth that Labor Day weekend is summer’s last humid hurrah. After, cold hard reality hits: summer hours come to an end, pumpkin spice lattes return, and soon enough we’ll have to return to layering.
Whether you’re heading to sandy beaches or taking a staycation, this coming weekend should be your best, most relaxed long weekend yet. Nothing — especially not email — should get in the way. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. For those wishing to avoid coming back to an inbox packed with unread messages, checking in from your phone while beneath a beach umbrella may seem like the best option. But, as Arianna Huffington points out in a recent post for the Harvard Business Review, doing so defeats the purpose of recharging.
Huffington has found an internal company solution. At Thrive Global, she enacted an email tool called Thrive Away, which automatically replies to an incoming message with a note saying when the employee will be back and letting the sender know they should reach out at that time. Then, the email is deleted from the employee’s inbox. (The tool was originally created and put in place at HuffPost in 2015.)
Not everyone works at a company where unplugging is practically part of the mission statement. Still, there are realistic ways to make disconnecting easier.
If you’re that person who has email notifications on your phone, turn them off as soon as your out-of-office message is active. Simply go to your phone’s Settings > Notifications > Mail.
Old habits die hard, though, and even turning off notifications probably can’t keep the avid email answerer from sneaking a peek. That’s why it’s worth downloading Boomerang’s useful Inbox Pause tool, a free extension for both Gmail and Outlook. Inbox Pause does exactly what it sounds like — it temporarily halts the arrival of messages for whatever length of time you designate. While the mode is activated (it’s easiest to set it up from your desktop), anyone who sends you a message will receive an auto-reply to let them know your inbox is paused. You can also make exceptions to allow emails from certain individuals, such as your boss, to get through even when pause is turned on.
Alternatively, you can follow Huff Post’s method and set up a filter within Gmail that will send all incoming messages to the trash, after sending an auto reply to the sender informing them this is happening. But for the email addicted, this all or nothing approach may be a bit too extreme.
If the idea of missing an important email is going to create more of a vacation distraction, opt for Inbox Pause instead. It will keep emails at bay so you can kick back and enjoy the last sunny days of summer. And read them all in September, with a pumpkin spice latte in hand.
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