There is big chance when you are reading this that you either are still on holiday, or that your holiday has just ended. Most likely, if you a decent amount of colleagues, you will find a couple of emails (or more) in your inbox. Though what to do about this small deluge of email, next to other work you also have to pick up after the holidays. So how to handle it?
The Daimler method
Just make sure it doesn’t arrive in your mailbox at all. Of course this could be a very German thing, however it does make sense. Why would you go to your old newspapers of two weeks? Why would we than think that we should go to through old emails?
Another well-known aspect if ‘handling’ your email is to declare email bankruptcy. Which basically is: send an email to everybody you got an email from and tell them that you have to many emails to follow-up on and that their email(s) will be deleted. If they want you to follow-up on their emails they have to resend their emails to you.
Working the weekends
If you have FOMO or if you think deleting everything is not polite and very drastic of course you could start working on your email in the weekend just before your first workday. It will give you an extra day to catchup, and most likely an immediate longing for your holiday again…
Filing and sorting
Of course you can do something less drastic than deleting everything. You can also start by grouping emails by conversations or sorting their by subject and start working from there. Archive the long discussions thread that don’t need action from you, move the emails to an action folder that require further actions. Doing this shouldn’t take you too long (of course depending on the number of emails you received) and should give you a quick insight on what your real workload is.
Email is not your work, nor is it an assignment
Whatever your method might be, keep in mind that email is just a means for communication (or it ought to be). An email is not a task that you have to do, it is a message on something and it is up to you to define what the action should be.
So feel free to ignore the messages left during the holidays, there is nothing wrong with that. Most likely 2 or 3 week old messages are literally history anyway. Of course you can go through all of them in your weekend, or during work hours, that is up to you. However as many things: you don’t have to do it to do your job well. You can be more effective by giving all your direct colleagues a quick call to catch up (or have a lunch together).
Email doesn’t have to be done, everything that has be done is defined by you, not by other people dumping a message in your inbox.