Vacations and Hot Potatoes


Steve writes:

In order to take a vacation, you have to have a job from which to vacate. I've had a number of vacations over the past 5 years, but the name for them has been "fired" or "laid off" or other euphemisms for "It's time for you to start thinking about Steve Gillmor." Like I was worrying about Michael Gartenberg's career the whole time.
From Vacation | Steve Gillmor's Inforouter | ZDNet.com
Referenced Fri Aug 19 2005 08:32:31 GMT-0600 (MDT)

Steve notes that August used to be the traditional time for vacations, but there doesn't seem to be much of a let up in things vying for attention anymore--even in the dog-days of summer.

If you sent me email while I was on vacation, you got back a note telling you that your email wasn't saved and that you'd have to resend it when I got back. Sorry if any were offended, but I simply turned email off. When I got home, I turned it back on and I didn't have thousands of messages to slog through. More importantly, however, there weren't forty tasks waiting for me that people had given me while I was gone.

Email has become like a game of hot potato. Everyone's anxious to clear their box, so they "delegate" whenever they can to you. I don't know why we've created a world where we feel like people we don't even know can task us, but we have. When I bounced email back, it forced people to think about whether they really wanted to send me that note (or task) and often, they decided they didn't. Steve Fulling remarked that he had a dozen things he thought about sending me, but because he knew he'd have to save it and keep track of it (instead of me), he only kept three.

I'm not sure that there's a larger answer here. I'm not advocating bouncing email back on a regular basis, but as a vacation tactic it worked well. I think it comes down to a few simple rules:

  • Think before you send an email when you're creating work for someone else and make sure its truly important.
  • Don't feel obligated to respond to tasks from people (even a simple task like replying to a question.
  • Don't be offended when you don't get an response to an email sent--the person you sent it to is just as busy as you are.