THE summer holidays often bring the pressure of catching up with your emails before you go – and the dread of how many you’ll return to. Dr Monica Seeley, owner of the Dorset-based Mesmo Consultancy and the author of Brilliant Email and the new book Taking Control of Your Inbox, advises on how to avoid email overload.

“Recently, there has been much written about taking a digital detox and switching off from all forms of electronic communications.

This is an excellent idea but to benefit fully you and your business need to prepare properly.

Otherwise you will be faced with a monumental backlog of emails. And if your organisation does not have the right email culture the benefits of the digital detox will quickly be lost. Here are my top tips to avoiding a holiday email traffic jam and ensure lasting benefits from your detox.

Before you go:

1. Check for important emails which if left unattended will be urgent when you return. Either deal with them or send a holding reply.

2. Move all the remaining emails over a week old out of the inbox to a folder. They are past their sell-by date.

3. To keep the inbox clean and de-cluttered whilst away, set up rules to move automatically both essential and non-essential emails to folders. Emails from key people will then be in one place and easy to find. Your inbox should then just contain important emails but un-planned for emails.

4. Set a safe and simple Out of Office message. Do not to leave the door open to prying eyes and cyber criminals. You might be bold and suggest the sender resends any important emails on your return as all emails will be automatically deleted. Such a practice is far more common than you think.

When you return

1. Talk to colleagues before opening your inbox to find out what’s been happening and prioritise accordingly.

2. Deal with all the high priority emails, and later the less important ones.

3. By the end of the week if you have a backlog of non-essential emails – delete them. Rest assured someone will soon re-send their email if it was that important.

Now relax and enjoy at least an email detox knowing that you have taken adequate precautions to reduce the vacation email overload syndrome.”