If you've ever tried to take a true break from email while on vacation, you've probably made one disastrous mistake: You set up an auto-reply message telling recipients that you'll respond when you return.

This inevitably fails for two reasons: first, because you'll spend hours playing catch-up when you get back into the office; and second, because, in an attempt to avoid that fate, you'll use vacation time trying to stay on top of all incoming emails. 

Upon reaching out to one entrepreneur during his time off, Inc. saw that there's a better, far more productive way. Dave Balter, co-founder of Smarterer, which offers a skill assessment tool, left this auto-response: 

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"I realized that the real issue with vacation messages wasn't explaining that you weren't around, but finding a way to get the monkey off your back for the week," Balter says. "So rather than take on the action of 'I'll get back to you,' switch to the action of 'you'll get back to me.'"

So did it work? 

Balter estimates that about five percent did follow up with him. "Most just moved on--which was fantastic," he adds. 

Behind the scenes, Balter didn't actually quit email cold turkey during his vacation. He scanned his inbox and responded to anything important. He says he was amazed at how quickly he could get through his inbox, given that there was no pressure to respond. 

"The big realization, of course, is that most requests can be handled elsewhere or just aren't that important," Balter says.

So is there anything he'd do differently? 

"I've been considering an away message each week suggesting people email me next week if it's really important. I figure if you do that constantly, you may never have to respond to anything at all," he joked.