Post-Vacation Panic: Tackling the Mountain of Emails

It feels great to be back!

I hope you enjoyed a relaxing long weekend and celebration of Labor Day. But I hope you haven’t enjoyed (too much) the small pause from the Bennis Inc Blog – because I’m excited to hit the ground running with some new posts I think you’ll really enjoy.

A two and a half week hiatus of travel is no joke. While I felt rested and energized from this prolonged time offline, I’m now facing the harsh reality that there’s a lot of work to be done. Even with emails being sent and phone calls being made from coast to coast when I could carve out some time, I felt more reactive than proactive. This is an odd place to be for an over-planner and an all-hours worker. It’s easy and tempting to allow this feeling to overwhelm me to the point of panicking or shutting down, but before I click “refresh” on my email, I’m going to take a deep breath and take a more strategic approach to this mountain of work.

My knee-jerk reaction when looking at a slew of new emails is to quickly click on each one, even just for a second, to first get rid of the awful illuminated look of an unread message. I then make a split section decision as to its priority. Both of these habits are dangerous. First, just because a message is “read” doesn’t mean its taken care of. Leaving a bunch of read but unanswered emails in your inbox will make you feel like you’ve accomplished something when really all you did was cover up the blinking red light. Second, it’s hard to tell the priority of a message by simply skimming it. Sometimes the most important information or question come at the very end. Deleting a message based on its first paragraph is…well, judging a book by its cover.

So instead my plan is to tackle this mountain step by step, email by email. I’ve been in the game long enough to know when I work most effectively – and it’s by focusing on just one project and seeing it through to completion before beginning another. My two and a half weeks of backlogged work is no different. I need to start at the bottom and handle each message one at a time. Whether this is a major task or a simple click of “delete” for junk mail, I gain nothing by trying to do it all at one. In fact, I only seem to lose time that way.

This brings me to my final post-vacation work strategy which is don’t think you need to do it all right now. I’m going to keep in mind that all of this work didn’t come in over night and so I should allow myself at least a reasonable time to catch up. Sure I’ll need to work double time, over time and in high octane mode to keep things moving and clients happy, but this doesn’t mean burn yourself out on your first day back.

So with that I’m feeling centered, focused and dare I say slightly excited to see what’s been going on while I’ve been away. I might be eating those words come Wednesday, but I’m about to find out…one email at a time.

jamaica vacation
And when stress hits, I’ll just remember this little slice of heaven where I felt so relaxed!

5 thoughts on “Post-Vacation Panic: Tackling the Mountain of Emails

  1. I wish I could say I have missed your posts, however I have been severely lackadaisical in my own blogging world. So, I would have missed the posts here if I had been around to miss them. I have been struggling with a lot of changes in my life and I needed to read a post like this to calm me and remind me that I can only truly handle a few things at once. Otherwise, everything will get mucked up and ruined.

    Thanks for the reminder! I needed this note!

    1. Glad to hear it hit a chord! You’re absolutely right, life will always seem to throw more at us than we feel like we can handle, but we’re human after all. We can only effectively handle one thing at a time. Take it day by day–and don’t forget to look up every so often and enjoy life 🙂

  2. It’s always difficult to get back into work after a relaxing holiday. I have a million things to do, too, and, just like you, always want to jump from one thing to the next in order to try and ‘skim over’ everything. But everything needs time and attention if it is to be done properly, so I’ll be gearing myself up with patience for these next few weeks!

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