Something I read: The Artful Out-of-Office Reply


There was a wonderful story in the New York Times a few years ago called “The Art of the Out-of-Office Reply,” that detailed some of the variety of approaches people take to discourage a nasty pile-up of inbox messages using the out-of-office auto-reply feature.

I recognized myself in one of the more wishy-washy ones. (I.e. the “frank admissions that the person on the other end of the email is actually available in some way, just less likely than usual to respond to you.”)

But two alternatives really stood out. First:

For the Dallas Morning News book critic Michael Merschel, a recent trip was an opportunity to do many things at once with his out-of-office. The first few sections covered the usual territory, including a few admonishments about how and who to correctly pitch.

For recipients curious enough to continue scrolling down, though, there was a heartfelt explanation of the reason for his absence: “I want you to imagine a middle-aged man who fell in love with a beautiful baby girl almost 18 years ago, and now he is driving her to a gigantic college in a distant city filled with all kinds of people who do the things people do at college … and he has to leave her there. And drive home alone. In the dark. In a minivan.”

Pass the tissue! How wonderful is that?!

And second:

Correspondents who tried emailing The Toast editor and Texts From Jane Eyre author [Daniel M. Lavery] in July received an email with the subject line “nope.” “I am currently on vacation and not accepting any emails about anything. I’m not planning on reading any old emails when I get back, either, because that feels antithetical to the vacation experience.”

Wow. Something to think about for this holiday season—or the next time an out-of-office is warranted.

P.S. On the “tyranny” of email, aka “Reply-all will be the death of me.” (Elise Joy has teased on IG lately that she’s working on a course about dealing with email. I’ll be staying tuned.) Finally, more work-related posts: Creating the most beautiful home-office space, Jen Gotch’s productivity hack, and Julia Child’s recipe for entrepreneurial success.

[Photo of my dream home office via Design Files]


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