For most of us, our inboxes are the enemy—a bottomless black hole of pain, despair, and sales coupons we can never crawl out of.

And while you can try to auto-file and unsubscribe your heart out, there are just some emails you can’t avoid. You won’t be able to stop your company from sending you all those team reports or keep that annoying publicist from chucking press release after press release at you.

But there’s one type of email you can stop: Follow-up emails.

Think about it: The more emails you accumulate, the longer it takes you to respond to all of them. The longer it takes you to respond, the more follow-up emails people decide to send just to make sure that you have received their messages. Before long, you’re stuck in a vicious, perpetual cycle. If a plethora of people are sending you “Hey, did you get the message I sent yesterday?” emails, could you imagine how much extra space and time is being wasted?

Luckily, there’s a super easy way to cut down on the number of follow-up messages (and potentially just messages in general) you receive: Put an email auto-responder in place—not just when you’re on vacation, but all the time.

Your auto-response doesn’t have to be long or detailed, but a quick “Hi, I’ve received your email and will get back to you when I can!” message may keep the eager beavers at bay.

Need a little guidance for how to format your auto-response? Try out this template to start:

Hi there! This is just a message to confirm that I’ve received your email. It might take me a little while to follow up, but I will in fact get back to you, so hang tight and don’t worry about sending me a follow-up!

Thanks, and have a great day.

Also keep in mind that being more specific with your auto-responder is best. Give people a general timeline of when you’ll get back to them (“I’ll try to reply to business inquiries within three days”), so they know the difference between you being busy and you using an auto-responder as a way to completely avoid your inbox (we don’t recommend doing this, obviously).

In addition, auto-responders are a great way to direct work to other people who may be better suited (“If you’re contacting me about a marketing opportunity, feel free to email [name], our marketing associate, at [email address]”).

Your auto-responder can also be a more unconventional opportunity to engage people. Feeling a little self-promotional? Add a link to one of your social media pages. Want to preemtively answer some questions? Include a fun FAQ of handling some of the things that people most often come to you for. Interested in getting creative? Link to a recent article you found interesting.

Above all though, make sure you’re using your auto-responder as a way to buy time and not an alternative to answering emails (because, surprise: Auto-responders don’t answer messages for you no matter how long you wait).

But by using this approach, you’ll keep unnecessary emails at bay. You’ll keep your contacts happy. And, best of all, you’ll keep inbox dread from creeping into your day.

Photo of at sign courtesy of Shutterstock.

Updated 6/19/2020