Go ahead and say it loud and proud: “I’m self-important and I know big words.” Note: while this responder is intended to just let people know that they are low in the pecking order, it can be easier converted to your average vacation responder. Special thanks to Liz Kramer (not her real name) for this idea.
SUBJECT: Automatic reply for [REGURGITATED EMAIL SUBJECT]
I am out of the office today at client meetings. As time is of the essence, I will only be able to attend to material requests.
However, if you need immediate assistance, please contact my assistant Ida Nough and she will direct you to a consultant to assist you in my absence.
Alternately, if this matter is urgent, you can try to reach me on my mobile phone and I will return your call as soon as possible.
This electronic mail message and any attached files contain information intended for the exclusive use of the individual or entity to whom it is addressed and may contain information that is proprietary, privileged, confidential and/or exempt from disclosure under applicable law.
THE INFORMATION CONTAINED IN THIS ELECTRONIC MAIL TRANSMISSION IS CONFIDENTIAL AND MAY BE PROTECTED FROM UNAUTHORIZED USE OR DISSEMINATION. If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any viewing, copying disclosure or distribution of this information is strictly prohibited and may be subject to legal restriction or sanction. Please notify the sender immediately by electronic mail of any unintended recipients and delete the original message without making any copies.
C’mon. When was the last time you really didn’t have access to email when you were on vacation? It was 2007 and we all know it. If you wanted to check email on a plane, on a train, in a car, or off the grid, you could do it, and probably from six different devices. Hell, even the yoga commune where I go to write every January has wifi. So just be honest and tell us—you read our email. You just don’t feel like answering it.
SUBJECT: On Vacation
Hello! I’m on vacation from October 26 – October 31st. Yes, I’m reading each email as it comes in, but I’m only responding to the ones that a) I can answer within six seconds or b) have nothing to do with work. If your email doesn’t fall into either category, I’ll probably answer it when I return, although there is an 86% chance that now that I’ve read your email, I’ve already forgotten all about it.
Going to have a baby? Then you know how much planning needs to be done. You have to figure out the registry, get on the preschool waiting lists, and research 529 plans. The more work you can do before the stork comes, the better. Like this ready-made maternity leave email responder. Its tone has “frazzled new mom” written all over it. For bonus points, in place of the name of the person to contact in your absence, substitute the name of someone from two jobs ago to really give that authentic feel of a woman on the verge of being on the verge.*
I have just had a baby and will be on maternity leave for the next three months, partly because that’s all the maternity leave I have been given and partly because I have no idea what it means to have an infant that needs to be fed every two to four hours and I’m pretty sure that three months off is all the time anyone needs. In truth, I’m composing this email responder in anticipation of going into labor and having a baby because I hear that they can be pretty time-consuming but I have a hard time believing it. How much trouble can something be that only eats, sleeps, and poops? I don’t know. Really, all I know that a baby eats every few hours but I don’t realize yet that “every two to four hours” really means that if my baby is one of those babies that eats every two hours than I will spend forty-five minutes feeding said baby, twenty-five minutes putting said baby back to sleep, five minutes eating KIND bars, twenty minutes pumping so I can drink some wine tonight, fifteen minutes nodding off on the toilet and the remaining ten minutes on Facebook before it’s time to feed my baby again and if my little bundle of joy is the kind that eats every four hours I don’t realize that that doesn’t really mean four hours on the dot the way a parking meter expires. It’s more like four hours between breakfast and snack and two hours between snack and lunch and every fifty minutes during hours in which I am trying to sleep.
Look! I haven’t even had the baby yet and I am already writing in stream-of-consciousness run-on sentences!
So, if this email requires some attention before 2016, please email [THAT POOR PERSON WHO HAS AGREED TO TAKE ON YOUR WORK NOT REALIZING THAT YOU ARE NOT COMING BACK TO WORK].
Similarly, if you are placing a bet that I will not be coming back to work, please email [PARENT OF THREE WHO IS ROLLING EYES AT YOUR NAIVETE]
* this is not to imply that all new mothers are frazzled incoherent messes. I’m just speaking from my personal experience in which I was so tired that I opted for general anesthesia when my wisdom teeth were removed just so I could get an extra nap.
Who says a vacation responder has to have complete sentences? All you really need to do is let them know you’re not going to email them. As I did in this little ditty from 2014.
SUBJECT: off the grid
But no email.
Will get back to you after October 31st.
It’s totally acceptable to disguise a plea for help inside a vacation responder. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.
SUBJECT: Unable to respond to email
I am in trapped in a car with three small children until October 31st. I’d love to respond your email sooner but bad things would happen. Worse that being trapped in a car with three small children.
You’re overworked and you have finally decided to take some PTO. Your stress levels are through the roof and if you do anything work-related for the next two weeks you just might collapse. The trouble is, people keep forgetting that you really need this vacation. And knowing your crowd, they might actually expect you to work when your doctor has prescribed rest and recreation. Let those numbnuts know with this not-so-subtle guilt trip vacation responder.
I am out of office on a long-awaited family vacation, canceled three times due to work obligations and will not have access to my email from October 21 through October 31.
Thank you for your email, which I will respond to upon my return to the office on November 2.
You’re back from vacation, but now you’ve got so much work to catch up on, the last thing you can do is answer the new email that is coming in. Buy a little more time with the handy little stall tactic. Be warned: honesty isn’t always the best policy and it may backfire. In which case we take no responsibility for whatever happens next.
SUBJECT: your email
So, Hawai’i was great. Aloha and mahalo for your email. I’m still catching up on the emails that were sent over the last four weeks (maybe I should have been checking email on my vacation after all! 😉 ).
Anyway–please bear with me as I work through my inbox! I’m sure I’ll get to your inbox before I go on Thanksgiving break.
A two-for-one special! Today’s vacation responder back-dated to some random day last week is both recycled from my own inbox and it’s a lazy. Good times.
SUBJECT: HAPPY HALLOWEEN WEEK
I will have limited access to email from October 15 to October 31st.
If this is an emergency, please text my assistant, Sam Sung at [YOUR NUMBER].*
Have a great break!
* Yes, even my own real-life vacation responders have recycled jokes in them.
I’ll be honest. When I started this little monthly project, I totally underestimated how hard it would be to write a new vacation responder every day. I also underestimated how quickly the novelty would wear off (and I’m just talking about me, not my audience). But I’m committed to writing a post a day even if I have to play catch up now. Even if I have to recycle real live vacation responders from my own inbox. NaNoWriMo is coming up in a few days and if I can’t write 200 words a day, how am I gonna write a novel next month?
So here goes. The first of several recycled vacation responders.
SUBJECT: Holed Up Under a Rock and Writing
Dearest Kind Friend Whose Email I Can’t Wait To Read Upon My Return,
I’m away writing a book. Or playing solitaire because my book has no narrative arc. Maybe eating chocolate which is more fun than writing narrative arcs. Quite possibly drinking out of flask somewhere until inspiration fits. Writing again because what else do you do when the chocolate and booze are gone?
But not reading email until October 31, 2015.
If this is an emergency, you know the drill: you can text my assistant, Sam Sung at [YOUR NUMBER].
* It’s probably better if you write your own witty closing instead of using mine, which, let’s face, has become pretty stale over the last five years.
Plagued by an uncontrollable urge to brag? Sound like you are too cool to write one of those ordinary vacation responders and gloat at the same time.
SUBJECT: NOBODY HOME
Folks, ain’t no email access on my transatlantic flight. Or in my bungalow on the isle of Sardinia. But just sit tight and I’ll kindly return your email after October 31.
[DON’T EVEN BOTHER SIGNING THIS ONE. THEY SENT EMAIL TO YOU. THEY KNOW WHO YOU ARE RIGHT?]