Email overload - getting to grips with it

Dealing with Email Overload

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email can chain you down and ruin your productivity, David Algeo, motivational speaker on stress, male mental wellbeing and resilience shares how to manage email positively

Although not strictly to do with writer's block, this can be a real distraction to anyone wishing to get on with the business of being productive, so I have decided to round off the 'stress and writer's block' series with some advice on this very modern problem.

Dealing with Email Overload

How much time and money are you spending on dealing with your emails?

You probably spend around 3 minutes on each of the majority of them, but we all know a lengthy email can take us ages to deal with. If you take a moment to work out your per-minute wage (divide your annual salary by 120,000), it’s scary how much our inboxes are costing us.

Whatever your job role, the modern employment world seems to require a constant bombardment of email communications, flying in from all directions at all hours of the day and night.

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by the constant notifications on your desktop and smart phone, here are a collection of tips for dealing with the overload.

Get to know your email program – all email clients have useful tips and tricks for making managing your email easier. Take a bit of time to discover what your chosen program has to offer.

Filter Priority Messages – most email clients allow you to filter messages directly into folders, so you can set up for all your newsletter subscriptions and other less-important emails to file away for you to attend to later, leaving you with just the important stuff in your inbox.

Don’t check your inbox first thing in the morning – chances are, if you do, it’ll be a couple of hours before you get started on the real work for the day.

Don't check it too often – don’t be a slave to email notifications. Be disciplined and ensure you have at least a 15 minute break to do some real work in between checks. Consider turning off the notification pop-up so you’re not tempted to click every time it appears.

Respond in a timely manner - A quick response may look professional, but it doesn’t have to be instant. Aim to respond to important emails within a couple of hours – if someone has a REALLY urgent enquiry they can contact you for an instant response by phone, saving both of you time reading, considering and responding to multiple emails.

Practice good email habits – work on making sure your messages are always clear, concise, relevant, and clearly actionable where appropriate. If you get the message right the first time around, you won’t have to waste time clarifying things at a later date.

Make sure your holiday IS a holiday – while the temptation may be to access the internet as often as possible so you can keep up to date, the world isn’t going to stop because you’re away, and the purpose of a holiday is to rest and recuperate – make sure you do!

Delete the post-holiday mountain – now this one may horrify you, but hear me out: every email client has a holiday auto-responder. Set yours up to notify those who contact you that you are away and that they need to contact whoever’s covering you, or re-email you after your return date. This means you can delete the mountain as soon as your return, knowing anything important has already been taken care of or you’ll get a new message about it in the next few days.

Make the most of your email signature – save yourself time spent typing your usual sign off or contact details by setting up your email signature to include as much as possible, including your chosen sign-off (kind regards, best regards, yours, etc.).

Make the most of the search function – once you’ve filed all your mail away into tidy folders, it can be a real hassle trawling through them again trying to find that one email sent at some point in the last 4 months by either that person or that person. Use the search function and filters to find the mail you want in an instant!

Dealing with SPAM – on top of all that vital(?) work-related email, you’re no-doubt inundated with newsletter mailouts and spam. Set your email filters to file away messages with the word ‘unsubscribe’ in them, giving you a folder of newsletters which you can review or delete en masse when you have the time. Most email servers are pretty good at picking out the spam; help them out by highlighting any spam that does make it past the filters into your inbox.

Take some time to train those around you and lead by example - There’s a great article to show you how, here.

Let me know how you get on, and if you’ve got any great tricks you use to deal with email overload, pop them in the comments box below.

Keep an eye out for the next blog.

Dave Algeo

Motivational Speaker on resilience and men's mental health. 

Asking yourself 'is this it?'  Have you got to a point in life where, despite working hard and building a 'great life' you still feel there's got to me more?  Here's a short video with three tips to help you get back a sense of hope and direction.