My Permanent Out of Office Email: One Month Later


Back Story: After a vacation last year I realized how much freedom my out of office email notification provided, so with the new year starting, I decided to try an experiment and make my email management plan permanent. I promised to check back in and let you know what happened.

My Original Plan

Here was my three step plan to attack the email monster:

  • Start Clean: Move all email prior to Jan 1st into an archived mailbox.
  • Check Once: Ideally only read email once, toward the end of each day. If I read emails more, at least deal or snooze them to not constantly re-read them.
  • Permanently Out of Office: Set up a permanent auto-responder that provides common answers, saying I’m in the office but won’t necessarily reply.

What I Actually Did

Start Clean?

Almost. I probably shouldn’t have done it, but I scanned through the emails still in my inbox from October through December to see if there were any I should deal with before archiving 2014. Realistically, I probably shouldn’t have even looked—but a number of those are still in my inbox. Having said that, my inbox is nowhere near as daunting as it once was.

Check Once?

Wow, this one was hard. Wake up in the morning? Check email. Waiting in line? Check email. Going to bed? Check email. I checked email less often, but not nearly as infrequently as I ought to. Will try again. Just moved both of my email apps (the default iPhone one & Mailbox) onto the second screen of my phone. This seems to be helping, it’s the little things.

Permanently Out of Office

I’m going to count this one a success. I set this up on my external email account and it has been great. I have seen many emails come in that were truly auto-answered by my common answers. The auto-responder also weeded out who was a real person versus a fake “I’m personally sending this to you” email. Reduced my workload, added a sense of freedom, and reduced my ‘need to answer email’ anxiety.

I did not set this up on my other email accounts because the problem wasn’t as intense there—and the auto-responder technology is pretty limited. I wish it could do more as I’ll explain below, but this still worked.

Next Steps

Explore Better Out of Office Auto-Responders

The default Gmail out of office notification works well, but:

  • The out of office messages appear in your inbox as part of the threaded conversation. Ideally they would be sent without appearing in your view.
  • I would love to set it up for all my email while excluding them from being sent to the domain. Ironically, Gmail allows exactly the opposite (sending only to Contacts or the domain.)

I looked at Gmail Labs and Google’d for some add-ons, but if anyone knows of a better way to do this—please share in the comments!

Keep Trying

I have 186 emails in my inbox right now. Not zero, but not 3,280 that I had when I wrote my plan a month ago. Habits are rarely changed overnight. I feel I made progress in taming the email monster. I’ll keep plugging away at this process.

How do you handle your email?


About Gleb Budman

Gleb Budman is a co-founder and has served as our chief executive officer since 2007, guiding the business from its inception in a Palo Alto apartment to a company serving customers in more than 175 countries with over an exabyte of data under management. Gleb has served as a member of our board of directors since 2009 and as chairperson since January 2021. Prior to Backblaze, Gleb was the senior director of product management at SonicWall and the vice president of products at MailFrontier, which was acquired by SonicWall. Before that, he served in a senior position at Kendara, which was acquired by Excite@Home, and previously founded and successfully exited two other startup companies.