Carve out time for your digital product by using an email autoresponder

On episode 2 of the podcast, I shared a few strategies to help you carve out time on Monday mornings to work on your first digital product (or any other tasks just for you).

One of the strategies I mentioned was pausing your inbox and/or setting your out of office message. Let’s dive deeper in this post.

Using an existing feature for a new purpose

You’ve probably heard of a “vacation responder” or an “out of office message” but this feature can be used other times as well:

  • When you want to carve out time to focus deeply
  • When you’re working on a project and you don’t want to be distracted by your email
  • When you want to do less context-switching — going back and forth from tasks to email to tasks to email

Using the vacation/out of office responder feature in this way has amazing benefits.

  • It sets expectations. Most often, people are fine as long as they know what to expect.
  • It frees up some of your mental space. You don’t have to worry about your inbox because you’ve clearly communicated when you’ll be available.

What to include in your message

Before we talk about how to set this message, let’s write it up!

Erin at Out of Office Entrepreneur has a great blog post about saving tons of time in your inbox. She mentions that your auto-response should include:

  • Your office hours and/or
  • Approximate time frame to expect a response in
  • Answers to frequently asked questions

Example messages

Sometimes it’s easier to write when you have an example! Use these as a starting point to craft your own auto-reply.

Thank you for your email. I'm currently working on a project deadline and won't be responding to inquiries until X date. If you're able to wait for my reply, you can expect the same focus and dedication to your project and deadlines. 
Adam Warner
Thanks for emailing! I pause my inbox so I can focus on tasks at hand for some uninterrupted time. I check my email at 8am and 3pm every day. If you have an urgent need to get in touch, please send an email to XXX and someone will get back to you as soon as possible. If your issue is especially urgent and requires a phone call, you can reach me at XXX. 
Tara Claeys
Hey! Always-buzzing-inbox interrupts my flow state multiple times a day, therefore, this permanent auto response exists. I check my inbox once every two days and will get to your email soon. Note: If we are working on something time-sensitive, we must already be connected on texts. That is a better way to discuss something that cannot wait 48 hours for a response. 
Mohit from Mailman
Greetings, Friends [or Esteemed Colleagues], Due to high workload, I am currently checking and responding to e-mail twice daily at 12PM ET and 4PM ET. If you require urgent assistance (please ensure it is urgent) that cannot wait until either 12PM or 4PM, please contact me via phone at XXX. Thank you for understanding this move to more efficiency and effectiveness. It helps me accomplish more to serve you better. 
Tim Ferris

You may have also received an email like this in the past. Make a note the next time you do and consider using the wording as a model for yourself.

How to set up a vacation/out of office message using your mail provider

Now that you have your own message written, there are a few ways you can implement it. The easiest way is to use the vacation or out of office functionality within your mail provider software.

  • Google Workspace. Go Settings, General, Vacation responder. Google will send an automated reply to incoming messages. If a contact sends you several messages, the automated reply will be sent at most once every 4 days.
  • Microsoft Outlook. Go to File, Automatic Replies (Out of Office), Send automatic replies.
  • Apple Mail. Click the gear at the top of the mailboxes list, then Preferences. Click Auto-Reply. Anyone who sends you multiple messages while you’re away receives one autoreply in a 24-hour period.

Additional software

I find that if I go back to my inbox to search for some details about a project, I want to click on and respond to all of the new emails! 🙈 In this case, you could try Inbox When Ready or Mailman (both for Google).

And if you want a software package that pauses your inbox and allows you to create an auto-reply all in one, try Boomerang or SaneBox.

How often do you check your email? Do you have an auto-response? Leave a comment below!