The Blog.

Two brilliant email autoresponses

27 May 2014 | Communication

How available are you?

Do you have email on 24/7? Does your phone buzz when someone tweets you? Do you wake up to that familiar red light flashing on your Blackberry?

What about times when you’re in a meeting? With a client? On the phone? When you’re travelling, driving, at a conference or attending training? When you’re off work? On holiday, with your kids, on a date, in the bath or asleep?

Whether you like it or not, there will be times when you’re not available to answer emails – and probably arguably plenty more times when you could do with being less available.

Yes there’s often an expectation that email requires a quick, or even instant response. Yes, some industries and organisational cultures actively perpetuate this expectation.

But I wonder, how much of that expectation do we set ourselves?

Here are a couple of examples of people taking control of their inboxes and setting their own email availability expectations.

Linda West at Clear Accounting Solutions was inspired to implement this after a talk I gave on ‘How to Be a Productivity Ninja’:


What I love about this example is it highlights the reason why Linda won’t be responding to emails straight away – so that her clients get her full attention. If I was a client seeing this message I’d find that pretty reassuring.

She says “It has helped a lot already. I do not feel the pressure to answer straight away; giving me a clear head to work on the clients work I am doing. I know that if it is urgent; they will call me.”

And the following from Sarah Bishop at Recruit Recruit just made me laugh out loud – which is always a good thing in my book. I’ve not even met her yet and I like her already:


What about you? How do you set expectations on your availability? What’s the best email autoresponse you’ve seen? Let me know in the comments below.

And if you want to get your emails under control, ask me about our Getting Your Inbox to Zero workshop.


  1. naomirichards

    Gosh. I have not set an out of office response on my email for years. Not even when I go on holiday. Maybe it is because I always have my phone with me so can check every few hours to see if there is anything urgent

    • Grace Marshall

      I find when I do that I don’t fully switch off. Or I see something when I’m not in a place where can’t do anything constructive about it and it ends up just squatting in my brain. I think it very much depends on your role and the expectations of people who contact you. If your clients are happy with your response times and you’re happy with their expectations, everyone’s happy!

  2. Zoe

    This is great Grace. I get a notification every time an email comes in and I automatically stop what I’m doing to respond immediately. This is costing me valuable time, a fact I realised when I got so much more done in four hours on a Bank Holiday Monday than I could conceive of on a normal day. The difference? My email was switched off. I will try this!!!

    • Grace Marshall

      So simple and yet so powerful! Thanks for sharing your experience Zoe! Have fun ‘going off the grid’!

  3. Richard Tubb

    Grace – love the examples of out of office messages you’ve left, especially the one from Sarah which I think is funny!

    I follow Sarah’s lead and try to make my own out of office messages amusing and interesting – often including links to funny facts about places I’m travelling to when away or what I’m doing with my holiday time. I think it’s a great way to be remarkable and stick in the memory of those who have emailed you. The only downside? I tend to get *more* email as once word gets out about my out of offices messages, people start emailing me to have a chance to read the message themselves. 🙂

    • Grace Marshall

      Ha yes! That would be the price to pay! 🙂

Image if author Grace Marshall

About Grace

I coach, train, write and speak on productivity. I help people adopt new ways of working and thinking about their work to replace stress, overwhelm and frustration with success, sanity and satisfaction.

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