Guard against holiday email overload

The holiday break is less than two weeks away, and many knowledge workers are planning to get away from the office for an extended break -- sometimes the entire week between Christmas and New Year's. Even if your break isn't quite so luxurious, you might be faced with your lengthiest time away from the office PC all year.

Email keeps coming, though, whether you're in the office or not. Now is the time to establish an email strategy for your upcoming break. According to the BBC, a recent study of 1,000 people showed that almost a third planned to look at their work emails intermittently over Christmas, while a further 15 percent intended to check them frequently.

Does that sound like you? Here are four email moves to consider:

Broadcast your plans. Be sure to set an email auto-responder "away" message that makes it clear the days you'll be gone and how to contact in your absence.

Set a schedule. Decide in advance how frequently you'll check email while you're away (if at all) and put that information in the auto-responder as well.

Consider declaring email bankruptcy in advance. You can write a message in your auto-responder that says something like: "Due to the high volume of email I will receive over the holiday break, I will delete all messages. If you really need me to see your message, please resend after the holidays or call me directly."

Take a real break from email. Imagine you're on vacation in a place where there's no wireless service, or you're stuck in a power outage. Will the business -- and your job -- survive? If so, you can safely recharge without constantly checking mail.

Will you be monitoring and responding to work email over the holidays? Do you think that's essential in today's business environment? Weigh in with your email strategy in the comments.