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Trying the permanent Out Of Office reply

Last updated on maart 25, 2020

Time to read 3 minutes

In the midst of implementing the weekly review I recently blogged about, I also took up Tim Ferriss’ advice and ‘installed’ another tool: a permanent out-of-office reply. Although he uses it for a slightly different reason than I did, I’d like to share what happened when I implemented it.

Who’s Tim?

But first a little about Tim Ferriss. Who’s he then? Although I have to admit I have yet to read his books (Tools of Titans is on my wishlist), I know the guy’s pretty famous. Why? He wrote a little book called The 4-hour Work Week and since then shot to fame. In the book he explains how he manages his work – as efficiently as possible. One of his tools is the permanent out-of-office reply, aimed at that one can do the work needed when you do it.

Why I chose the out-of-office reply outside of holiday plans

I decided to use the out-of-office-reply to create clarity about how I go about my workday. I’ve been in jobs in which emails (in my case, mostly from colleagues) could dictate your day, if you let it. It’s a common thing if there’s no such thing around as Slack or Microsoft Teams combined a shared task management tool as Jira, Basecamp or you name it. Email is, next to the old phone, the only means of communication between colleagues.

Your peers count on a few habits – this is a work culture thing, and it happens at many a different office:

  • You have all possible notifications on.
  • You open emails as soon as your colleague has sent it.
  • You watch your email inbox several times a day, preferrably every hour.
  • You answer an email the same day you received it.

Well hey, that’s technology for you. Because the message gets delivered so bloody fast and with bells and whistles to boot, it’s easy to expect a certain swiftness on the part of the receiver. Completely forgetting that you’re in this thing called a ‘work day’ too, and quite possibly have meetings all day and what not. At least, something more important to do than looking at your inbox all day. So, I decided to tell my colleagues what to expect when they email me.

The OOF-message

And here it is, this is what it looks like.

Hey there colleague,

Thanks for your request. I look at my emails daily from 8:30 to 9:30. CC-messages I read once a week.

After that, I’m busy attending to the applications you use daily: updating them, testing them, picking up on earlier requests and helping you make better use of them.

If your request really cannot wait until tomorrow, try calling my cell: 06-xxxxxxxx. I might decrease your level of urgency 🙂

Thanks, sincerely,


I’ve used the term ‘request’, because I’ve found that in my line of work it usually is :). Pretty clear eh? I actually live up to the expectation to answer people the next day, because my inbox usually is pretty empty when I’m done going through it. I keep it clean and tidy.

The reactions

Straight up when I implemented it, I got a variety of responses:

  • I received more phone calls on my regular voip work phone, which I didn’t pick up straight away (I do call back though).
  • ‘Does it actually work for you?’
  • ‘Wow, taking the reigns, well done!’
  • ‘I see what you did there.’
  • ‘Ha, from now on, I won’t put you in CC anymore.’ (Works for me!)
  • ‘You read CCs once a week?! Why? That’s weird!’.
  • ‘Just once a day? Wow. In my work that’s unheard of.’

The last two were the most interesting and were great examples of work culture in action. When I explained that I chose to be in control of my work day instead of letting others dictate it, they saw my point.

What does it do for me?

The type of work culture I mentioned above, has been around since the introduction of email as an office communication tool in the 90s and it still happens today. It’s not new at all. But it’s very hard to ‘kill’ if one doesn’t take a stand. I can highly recommend implementing a permanent out-of-office message, for the following reasons:

  • It does bring more peace of mind, knowing I have only to reply the next day.
  • I can make more time actually doing stuff.
  • It allows me to overdeliver (if I chose to reply the same day). 🙂
  • I’m more prepared to receive urgent requests than I was before. My mailbox isn’t weighing me done.

In future blog posts, I’ll explain how I keep my mailbox clean and as empty as possible during that hour.

Published inOrganizing Home & Work

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