To be clear, I’ve never met or interacted with Nat. I don’t know him at all.
But he’s the publisher of the WSJ’s CMO Today daily newsletter, which I really enjoy, and his email address is at the bottom of each one. And since I particularly liked today’s edition, I thought I’d send Nat a brief note to let him know that I was a fan… because who doesn’t like to start their day with a little unsolicited praise from a fan, am I right?
And that’s when I got his OOO message.
Let’s take a moment to appreciate the beauty of his auto-reply.
It’s short. It’s clear. And it puts the ownness on me, the SENDER, to resend my note if it’s so important that I need Nat to read it.
This means that when Nat returns to work, he can literally delete everything in his inbox and begin his return at Inbox Zero, knowing that the really important stuff will be resent to him. After all, we were all warned.
When I was the CMO of Hill Street, I used to have fun with my out-of-office messages, describing in detail the personal reasons for my absence (most often child-related) and warning senders their emails would go unread until I returned, then triaged according to urgency.
When I started doing this, I thought I’d get some backlash.
But the opposite happened. People who received my creative OOO messages would very often reply to the OOO just to let me know how much they enjoyed my creativity, and how much they respected my boundary-setting.
And then… they’d leave me alone to enjoy my time off, and email me again when I was scheduled to return if what they originally needed truly required my attention.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t work hard. You should!
But I am saying that unless not checking your emails will result in literal death and destruction, you deserve your time off and should enjoy it uninterrupted.
The really important stuff will either resolve itself in your absence (which happens when you have awesome colleagues and teams) or be waiting for your attention when you get back. And if it’s really important, the sender will follow up.
But a Nat-like reminder to that effect certainly can’t hurt.
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