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Submitted by Nevergiveup on


I am in a typical situation where my calendar is chock full of meetings back to back and I have recently started to put an out of office message telling people that I am not as responsive on email, and if they need an urgent response to please private message or call me.

Most of the time I am on cc emails where I don't really need to act on anything mainly because my staff is the one responding.

My boss and boss's boss has got a filter to ensure I read the mail quick regardless of whether I have to do anything. But other than that I only read all my other emails once every 2-3 days. My time is spent in back to back meetings where I contribute a fair bit.

I had started without the out of office message, but people were sometimes expecting wrongly that I would read their email and respond quickly.

It's early days and so far it's getting the desired response in the first few days, but I don't know how it may pan out long term or politically. My boss knows I am doing this, and he doesn't seem to have a problem with it.

I know this is a bit unorthodox, but I'm trying it out. I would like to know everyone's thoughts on the approach, and would you do if differently or adopt something similar?

mpew914's picture

Hi, Never Give Up,

My thoughts are that it may depend on your role.  I am in an internal service role - obviously for me your approach would never fly.  If you are truly in a role where most of your information comes from the meetings that you are in then it may work.

It looks like you will have been doing this for a couple of weeks, now.  How has it been?  Are people adapting to your new style and reaching out via IM or mobile?  Are there decisions that you have been left out of because someone e-mailed you and you didn't respond?  If folks are starting to cut you out of things (intentionally or unintentionally because they want a quicker answer) then alarm bells should start going off.

My thought would be a hybrid approach:  Take down the out of office message and instead add a signature to your e-mail saying something like, "I check and respond to urgent e-mails twice per day, before lunch and at the end of the day.  I respond to non-urgent e-mails as I am able." Then stick to it.  Take 5 - 10 minutes mid-day and at the end of the day to scan the subjects and read/respond to the e-mails that you think are urgent.  Leave the others for your 2 - 3 day "mass response."

One other observation...  Based on your original post, it seems like you might be a person who wants to be very thorough in her/his responses.  Just a gut feeling but I am guessing a bit of "C" in you...  If you try to work toward more streamlined responses you may find that you can give "enough" information vs. all the information that someone needs.

miller_sacramento's picture
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Good morning!

I've been seeing this more and more where managers set their email client to show Out of Office when they're focused on a bigger task, or in longer meetings.  Seeing others do this as a way to manage expectations, I finally decided to give it a try.  Several years ago, I was the point person on a large software rollout.  My priority focus needed to be on the rollout and the issues, so I set my out of office to let people know to expect email delays.  I was sitting in a conference room with the CIO and senior IT leaders of the company; all of us committed to this software rollout.  Almost immediately after setting my Out of Office, the CIO noticed it as he was managing his own email.  He promptly and publicly ripped me a new one.  Said I was trying to duck out on my responsibilities. That there were folks across the organization relying on me for the rollout, and also for my support of my day job.  Appearing Out of Office was akin to hiding from my customers, and sent the wrong message about my ability to perform as a leader in the company.  He then went on to show everyone in the room his own nearly empty InBox and let us know that he expected all of us step up our leadership game.  

Not every CIO is going to be like this, but do proceed with caution!  This behavior does get noticed.  

There is some life-changing guidance in a podcast on this website.  Mike and Mark share a system for totally managing all our email in a professional manner.  Here's a link to the main podcast:

I suffered for years with 100's of stale messages in my InBox that I simply couldn't get to.  It could take me days or weeks or even months to respond to some things.  I remember first hearing the advice above and thinking it sounded great, but was way (way!) too good to be true.  Not being totally bought in, I implemented only the few parts of the advice that I thought I could manage.  Sure enough, implementing a half-baked solution didn't seem to make a difference or any improvement.  I ended up giving up that time around.  

I came back to this podcast a few years ago with a 'I've got nothing to lose' attitude, and implemented it all.  Boom.  What a difference. I'm now known as the guy on top of everything, with the 'magic' email system.  I freely share the details Manager-Tools sets out, but this one still seems to be slow to catch on. If you make an effort to fully implement this Manager-Tools guidance, I promise it'll make a HUGE difference.

Hope this helps!