Back in Spring 2011, I received a vacation auto-response from a well known green author that essentially stated "I am away. I am not self-loathing enough to try to respond to all emails when I return, so if it is important, please email me back after the __th. [...] Now go ask yourself how many people I can make smile today. There's a challenge actually worth doing."
Taking Control Means Slowing Down
At the time, I declared it the best vacation response ever. After all, any truly sustainable cultural shift needs to start with some serious reprioritization. If we're going to fulfil the potential of a plenitude economy, or embrace Slow Business, one of the first things we need to recognize is that doing more does not mean doing things better. And this is especially true when it comes to email—which has become an arms race to prove who can reply the fastest.
No matter if it happens to be the weekend, the middle of the night, or a national holiday, I have lost count of the number of times someone has apologized to me for not replying within a day, sometimes within hours. Almost invariably, they apologize for not replying to something that could easily have waited.
Declare an Email Truce
So, this Thanksgiving, I am going to suggest we all do something I'd rather we didn't have to—let's check our emails. And let's take note of the fact that, if we exclude Black Friday related spam and all the evil it represents, there is a) a vastly reduced volume of important emails because most of the sensible people are off stuffing their faces and enjoying themselves, and b) of those emails we do have, very few, if any, will need replying to until after the holiday.
Then let's kick back with a beverage of choice and enjoy the company of those around us. And let's resolve to never check our emails on a holiday again.