Return from Your Sabbatical to Zero Email

August 7, 2009

For many, the thought of vacation (never mind an extended sabbatical or career break) immediately conjures up images of thousands of email messages building up in an unattended inbox. It’s a scary enough thought that many people simply can’t take a vacation without checking email.

Or can they?

YourSabbatical reveals the strategy that Danah Boyd uses to return from vacation to an empty inbox, despite the fact that she receives over 700 emails a day.

In the beginning, Ms. Boyd’s attempts at email sabbatical posed problems.  Returning from even 3-5 days of being offline left her with an “in box” brimming with messages that took several days to deal with. (Feel the energy drain here?)

Danah Boyd is smart.  Now, she experiences email sabbaticals for as long as 6 weeks and returns to an empty inbox. Yo!  What goes?

What goes is the email. She sends all of her email to the delete box. The sender gets a nice message saying, “I won’t be receiving your email, but I’ll be back on (date) so contact me then.”

Assuming you’ve got someone to pass emergencies to, I think this is a great solution. Just delete it all, and let people know you’re deleting it all. Why not? We do it with voice mail all the time, telling people we’re away, and to call so-and-so, and that we won’t be checking messages. Why not with email?

I can think of all kinds of companies and positions where this might not work, but I still love the idea – particularly because we’re just about to head out for a two week hiatus at a solar-powered cottage where our whole objective is to disconnect.

How to Take an Email Sabbatical and Return to an Empty Inbox (

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One Response to “Return from Your Sabbatical to Zero Email”

  1. sabbaticaljo on February 13th, 2011 3:08 am

    Great article! I am in my first week of 6 weeks off and I did exactly the same thing. The only difference is that I do get some newsletters that I wanted to be able to read when I get back, so I set up rules to send them to a separate folder. In order to further check out, I also removed email from my iPhone. I like to live by my calendar, so I created a new one just for the sabbatical and access just that one through my phone so I don’t have to see the million meetings I’m missing.

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