Many of us in India would be returning to work today after the Diwali vacations. They will be seeing a lot of “Happy Diwali” messages that poured into their inboxes after they left work last week. While it may feel nice when someone wishes you, these messages get intermixed with work messages, and become a pain when you are seriously trying to catch up with work.

Mind you, this concern is not only about Diwali. This is equally true about the X-mas greetings that the western world exchanges after the Christmas vacations. Further, this could also apply to any time someone returns from vacation.

Figuratively speaking, we all wear different hats while dealing with work messages vs dealing with personal messages, and it’s unproductive to switch between the two with every email message. Considering that every employee of an organization faces these challenges, these concerns translate to a significant amount of unproductive time for the organization.

If one could easily separate out the festive or personal messages from the work related messages, then that would save this time and increase our productivity.

We examine the different ways it is done, with their pros and cons.

Answer 1:
This is the most primitive, but I am surprised that people use it. When they open their inbox, they take all new messages received away into a folder designated for the festive messages. The assumption is that like them, everyone was off anyways, and why should anyone send any official email during the festive season. As you could see, this is a dangerous approach for most of us who do not want to miss out on any important messages.

Answer 2:
Using a message filters or rules on the email subject is a better answer. Specifically, one could filter away all messages that mention “Diwali” or “Happy Diwali” in its subject line to a specially created folder.

But now people being creative with their wishes, they use different subject lines. This time, I have received Diwali greetings with subject lines as varied as “Sssshhh” and “Time out”.

Answer 3:
Now the revised solution could be that we could apply the message filter to the message body instead (or better– in addition to) of the message subject.

This is the best solution so far, yet it opens you up to a risk of not filtering away the messages where people have mixed contents. Some messages start with a “Wish you a Great Diwali” and later have work related content such as “By the way, I also wanted to update that…”

It would not be right for such kind of messages to be filtered out as a festive message, would it be?

Answer 4:
A far better answer is to separate out the personal communication from the work communication and have this known to everyone. Many people I know have a different work email id from their personal email id, and some of them make it known that they do not appreciate intermixing the messages.

It’s great for those for which this solution works. However, we must note that it does not work with all — mainly because it contains educating others and expecting everyone to follow your rules, which is challenging in real life.

The Final Answer:
The best strategy could be to use a different communication system for work. A system that is meant for work communication automatically discourages others to use it for personal communication. (Any festive messages that still get broadcasted may be deleted by the administrator – without bothering the users.) Further, the work communications also would be neatly categorized in a good communication system.

Any email alerts coming from this “work” communication system usually come from the same email id (and so a simple filter can take them to a dedicated folder). All other messages coming to your mailbox can be safely assumed to be non-work related, and one may go through them when time permits.

How to Separate out the Diwali Messages from the Work Messages

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