Why you’ll never receive an “Out of Office” reply from me

Why you’ll never receive an “Out of Office” reply from me
24 October 2018

“I am away for 3 weeks and upon my return I will delete all accumulated emails and start with a clean inbox.”

“Until November 22nd, please contact my colleague XYZ for any urgent matters.”

“Enjoying my annual leave, returning December 1st. Until then, emails will not be read.”

For some, sending out such “Out of Office” replies will work just fine. If you feel strongly that you absolutely need more extended periods of time to unplug from your work, then setting up an “Out of Office” reply will be for you. Different things work for different people.

However, I feel strongly that I have done the right thing by never ever having used any of these “OOO” auto-replies.

You will simply miss out on many opportunities. Opportunities that include making your life a bit more comparable to how I live, if you are crazy enough to be aiming for that!

I have never used an “OOO” even once in my life

I have gotten used to having the freedom to shoot off to destinations of my liking at almost any time.

My life is now organised in such a way that I need to be in Western Europe only once a month for a few days. Outside of that, my “office” consists of my laptop.

That’s why during 2018, I have had the freedom to travel to and explore 12 different cities on five continents – more than most other people would get to do in five or ten years. At the same time, I have advanced my career and my business interests in the most successful way I could have imagined at the end of last year.

I have gotten used to having the freedom to shoot off to destinations of my liking at almost any time.

Hardly a day goes by when I am not chipping away on my email inbox, no matter where I am.

Here are my three critical reasons for always working on the road:

  • My mindset is such that I “relax” when I have that feeling of being on top of things. Instead of letting work accumulate in my inbox, I use time on trains and planes to get things taken care of. I use those 20 minutes on a train, that hour in an airport lounge, and those three hours on a flight, even if it’s just clearing out irrelevant emails from my inbox. Every day, I make time to get important, strategic work done.
  • In business, you have to be in it to win it. The world is moving fast, and our overall culture is now one of fast communication and fast reaction. What’s more, if you become known for not just being on top of things generally, but being on top of things despite travelling a lot, you inevitably build a reputation that precedes you. People remember you as that person who – somewhat amazingly – gets gets work done very fast no matter where they are. Which then leads to more business coming your way without you even asking for it!
  • Being able to deal with work on an ongoing basis is the single best evidence that I have found a vocation that I am genuinely passionate about. As they say: “I want a life that I never need a day’s vacation from.” If I lived an existence where I’d have to shout from the rooftops that, finally, I get two weeks off before having to go back to the grindstone for 50 weeks, then I’d seriously question my life’s career choices.

If you want to make your lifestyle more flexible while seriously pursuing business interests and keeping up a high level of professional reputation, these are just some of the steps you can undertake to deal with this issue. Sending out “OOO” replies is not what I would count among them.

This doesn’t exclude taking time off

Last but not least, there is a degree of common sense involved in all this.

E.g., when I am in the midst of a safari to look at the Big Five, I sure as hell will be focussing on the animals rather than deal with emails. Not the least as I nowadays usually don’t carry a mobile phone with me anymore. There is a time and place for everything.

Also, I have developed my own mechanism and rhythm for taking almost daily “mini-breaks” from work. E.g., I tend to get up and start work earlier than others but always aimed at being able to make free time in the afternoon. If you are Facebook friends with me and see pictures popping up from an exciting exhibition or a famous landmark somewhere in the world, it usually means I have been productive from 6am to 2pm and then give myself the afternoon off to be a tourist.

As they say: “I want a life that I never need a day’s vacation from.”

As I said, I’d never need a day of vacation, because I feel most any day in my life brings something that others would only get on vacation.

Which, I have come to conclude after many years of doing it without thinking much about it because it had become second nature, is a pretty spectacular way to go about life!

Find your formula and stick to it

Ultimately, what I described above is about the bigger topic of integrating work and personal life.

For me, pursuing work that doesn’t feel like work, but rather like spending time on something I am interested in and passionate about, is the key to a happy existence. I’d never want to be someone who has to draw a hard border between work and personal life.

Fair enough if others do, and if they passionately disagree with my view for any number of specific reasons.

But not only is that not for me. I have also turned being different into a selling point that helps me be successful.

You can’t possibly overemphasise the value of what I mentioned above about building a reputation that makes new business come your way. It’s a subject I’ll come back to in more detail. This essay about the “Out of Office” reply was really just an introduction to the bigger question of making the right things fall into your lap at least some of the time, rather than you chasing them.

On that note, watch this space for more on how you, too, can gradually change your life to something that you won’t ever need a day’s vacation from.

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