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Should you delete all emails you get while you are on holiday?

Out of office in the sand

The standard out-of-office message goes like this: "I am now away until x and will deal with your email on my return."

Useful, yes. And a way of signalling that you are off having a lovely time while your recipient is still at work - possibly in a hot, sticky office. But it also means your first days back are spent hacking through thousands of emails, CCs and BCCs - many of which will now be out of date.

Perhaps there is a another way. At his desk at the beginning of August when many are heading for the nearest autobahn out of town, BBC Berlin correspondent Stephen Evans stumbled upon a new approach to dealing with that post-holiday email mountain.

If you send an email to Joana Breidenbach of charity fundraisers Betterplace, you get the following reply: "Many thanks for your mail. Unfortunately I won't be able to read it, as I am taking my annual email sabbatical. From August 1-29 all my emails will be automatically deleted. See you in September, Yours Joana."

It's the third year she's chosen what for her is "August unplugged" and she told the BBC it was "liberating". She normally receives 100 emails a day and it was "overwhelming" to be on holiday knowing they would be there when she got back.

Switching off was her way of keeping sane, she says. "I was really surprised because I am a tech junkie but I don't feel overwhelmed now. It means I switch off and I don't even notice."

She's told her colleagues that they can send her a text message in a real emergency and she still reads websites and Twitter - but the email torrent is blocked.

It also allows her to redirect her thinking. "I find that it is a tremendous help to focus on different things. Some of the best ideas I have come out of this free space."

Danah Boyd, a fellow at the Berkman Center at Harvard University and an adviser to Microsoft, also takes an email sabbatical. "Have you ever returned from vacation more stressed out than when you left? Is the reason because you came home to 10,000 email messages?" she asked in a recent post.

But does she worry about missing out? Yes, she says, But not as much as she worries about what would happen if she didn't take a proper break.

"When I'm burnt out, I'm... a terrible person to be around," Danah says. Something to bear in mind the next time you type, "I will deal with your email on my return".