Email Overload: How to avoid email bankruptcy

Have you ever looked at the number of emails in your inbox and been tempted to just delete all of the old ones and start out fresh? Most employers would not appreciate this method of gaining control. There might be very important information in those emails. Even so, some folks would like to declare bankruptcy (email bankruptcy, that is) and just start over.

Every time I go away or even just take a couple of days off, I am amazed by the number of emails in my Inbox. I have used some of the suggestions I have read over the years, but still fall behind. I am not well-disciplined when it comes to following these simple ideas.

Here are a few suggestions taken from a couple of articles on this subject.

  1. Learn enough about the email application you use so that you can implement these ideas. If you just continue to do things as you have been doing them, nothing is likely to change. If you learn how your technology can help, you will likely be able to manage better. Gmail, Outlook, and Yahoo! Mail all have tools you can use.
  2. Filter your email into different folders, or at least use different tags or labels. In gmail, Google allows you to create multiple inboxes as well as an unlimited number of labels. I use things like ‘Blog ideas’, ‘CMS’, ‘HIPAA’, etc. I have hundreds of labels. The labels themselves are useless unless I also create filters to automatically tag each email that comes in with its appropriate label. In gmail, the steps are simple. With an email open, click on the ‘More’ button and select ‘Filter messages like these.” Walk through creating the rule for filtering these emails based on who they are from or words in the subject or in the email itself. You can even have things like newsletters that you receive daily skip your inbox altogether and go directly into their own folder waiting to be read when you have a few minutes.
  3. Limit how often you check email to once or twice, or maybe three times a day. Unless most of your business and work is connected to your email, do not keep it open all day. Limit the time you spend on email and work quickly through what you receive.
  4. Decide what you are going to do with each email you read and take that action. Reply, archive, delete, save in a folder. If you use GQueues as a task manager, you can even create a task and add it to your ToDo list directly from the email. Take a look at this video featuring Merlin Mann to get a good idea about how to implement these techniques.
  5. Sit down and start, but don’t expect yourself to clean out the Inbox all at once. Decide what your plan is and start to implement it. Then do a bit more each day.

Now that I have written these ideas down for you, I am motivated again to get my email cleaned up. The laptop will come home with me tonight so I can start the process of clearing my inbox. Who knows, maybe I will even delete some of those very old newsletters or headlines that could not possibly be of use to me ever again!

Do you have a system for managing email that works for you. Please share your ideas and comments below.




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