Day 57 – Assisting the Out of Office Assistant

by Dan

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Today I finish up work for just over two weeks – holi-holi-day! The only problem with lengthy time out of the office, however, is the build up of our old friend – the email. They seem to breed at an exponential rate in your inbox while you are away and you come back to hundreds. Before doing the usual drill of turning the “out of office” message on, I decided to have a ponder and see if there are any ways I can make the return to work a bit easier. I came up with two main problems with my usual drill:

1. I come back to hundreds of emails that I don’t need to read, generally the ones I do need are sprinkled lightly throughout the clutter. Clutter includes regular updates that are superseded by the next one, and being copied in on things that are useless to you by the time you get back.
2. When I am away for an extended period I often find that people forget that I am away and send urgent things through which are then chased, or worse, I get back and have to work out what has been taken care of in my absence and what hasn’t. The “Out Of Office Assistant” is great but it will only send a note back to the sender informing them of my absence once. Subsequent emails don’t receive the note and people easily forget.

So rather than relying on “The OOO Assistant” this time, I took the following steps today:

1. Emailed my colleagues and stakeholders to tell them I will be away and not to send me emails
2. Set up some rules using Outlook’s “Rules Wizard” to automatically file or delete certain emails that I get everyday but will be out of date by the time I get back
3. Set up a rule in the Rules Wizard that will do the same job as “The OOO Assistant” but will reply to every email from every sender with an out-of-office message.

I think these steps should dramatically simplify my return to work, and of course I will update on how effective it has been.

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