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5 Ways to Deal With Your Post-Vacation Email Inbox

By Mark Wilson, Esq. | Last updated on

It's the week after Labor Day. Summer vacation is officially over; it's time to go back to work, desperately trying to concentrate while thinking about all the fun you had at Disneyland, snorkeling, or watching that "Simpsons" marathon.

Your return is, of course, accompanied by a mountain of email that you've been ignoring while you were busy petting dolphins in Hawaii. How can you sift through 1,000 messages in a human amount of time?

Here are five suggestions:

1. Gmail Filters.

It takes a little bit of fancy Gmail know-how, but using Gmail's built-in filters can not only help you now, but it can help you stay organized in the future. Filters allow you to specify a whole host of parameters for email messages and where they'll go; you can create a separate folder for that second-guessing client with an accompanying filter that directs all his messages into that folder -- or straight to the trash.

2. Take Time to Unsubscribe.

How many of the 1,000 emails that you got over vacation were from bar committees you signed up for but never went to, advertisements from Costco, and pleas from President Barack Obama to give just a couple more bucks? Like Grandma used to say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Here's what you can do (and you're going to hate it, but just do it): Go through your inbox, find all these messages from things you subscribed to, and unsubscribe from them. Seriously: Actually click that "unsubscribe" button. You'll be amazed at how quickly and drastically your volume of mail decreases.

(Pro tip: If you don't have time, and you're comfortable with third-party apps having access to your inbox, will automatically search your inbox and unsubscribe you.)

3. Just Delete Everything.

Adam Pash of Lifehacker called it "declaring email bankruptcy." If your email pile is insurmountable when you get back from vacation, send an email to important people in your life or work saying, "Hey, I'm back from vacation; if you emailed me something important while I was away, and I still need to deal with it, email me again." Of course, use with caution: Automated systems don't know and don't care, so if you received something from a court at an address that's not monitored, you're not going to know they sent you anything and they're not going to know you never got it.

4. Use an Extension.

If you're on Gmail, developers have written a cavalcade of third-party extensions for Chrome or Firefox that increase Gmail's functionality. The Internet seems to love Gmelius, though it -- like some of the better extensions -- will cost you money. If you're feeling especially frisky, you can also use Javascript to automate the clean-up process.

5. Catch Up the First Day Back ... and Don't Do Anything Else.

All right, I'll level with you: This advice from Lifehacker is a meta-rule. But really, it's a good one. You're going to be spending so much time catching up that you won't have time to start anything new. Like Levo League says, you can plan new things, but don't actually do them. "Catching up" should be a single, monolithic task that gets started and completed as one unit so there's no frayed ends of incomplete catch-up tasks hanging around.

Any more suggestions you'd like to share? Let us know via Twitter (@FindLawLP) or Facebook (FindLaw for Legal Professionals).

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