a sneaky trick for pushing back emails

You go on holidays. You come home. You have 2937498237 emails in your inbox. Your heart sinks. True?


The funny thing about this, though, is that when you start wading through them, about 80% are actually redundant – miraculously (!!) the issue or request has either been sorted by someone else or dropped off, deemed not so critically urgent, in your absence. Or the sender of the email actually pauses for half a second and realises they can answer the issue/request themselves. Der.

I’m away for a few weeks and this time I tried a new tactic. I installed an auto-reply that says Hi, I’m away, back on such-and-such etc. At the end, but, I suggest that if the matter remains important after I return, that they re-send their email then. Which effectively pushes the onus back on the sender to pin me down for an answer/feedback.

Which is smart. How do I know if they still need a reply two weeks later? And, after all, they are the ones needing a piece of me. We forget this. We forget that email is not a summons.

I’ve been chatting via email to Tim Ferriss, author of The Four-Hour Work Week while I’ve been over in New York. My first email was met with the below auto-reply, which takes things to a WHOLE new level. Intriguingly, he didn’t ignore my email. He replied within three minutes, admittedly not from a Blackberry:

Hi All,

I am focusing on writing deadlines and will not be on email at all for
the next few weeks.  I do not own a Blackberry or handheld.

If you require a response in the same week, please call me on my cell
or contact [email protected].  She can find me.

If it’s something same-day, please also call her or me at 1.800.xxxxxx

If your request will still be relevant in 2 weeks, I kindly ask that
you please resend it.  I apologize, but this is necessary at this
point.  Email makes writing impossible.

For other contacts, please go here:

Thanks very much for understanding!


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