How To Manage E-mail Overload In 3 Easy Steps

Do you have control over your email, or do you suffer from email overload? You may actually be neglecting your work and losing incredible amounts of time. Many people could safely change their job to ‘Email Specialist’, because all they seem to do all day is send emails to and fro.

Do you recognise this story? You’re working on something and a mail comes in. You lose focus and read the email. You may be busy for five minutes writing a reply, or performing a quick task. When you’re done, you have to return to the work you were doing. You need to get into your work from scratch again, losing you time again regaining your focus and flow. Getting started is the hardest part of any job and we make ourselves do it over and over by allowing email to distract us.

Tired of e-mail overload? Ready for a new way, with less time spent finishing tasks and less time handling emails – and at the same time getting more done? Let’s get it on!

Email Time Management

Part 6/8 – Dealing With E-mail Overload – In 3 Easy Steps

Lesson One: Email is not your friend. We instinctively look forward to email because it brings us exciting news and fun tasks. Sadly, most of the time it brings you routine stuff that just distracts you from what you could be doing. Keeping your mailbox open all the time is one of those universal habits that doesn’t make any sense. If you want things to happen to you, you need to make them happen.

Email is like an unruly child that you need to take charge of. If you don’t, it’ll take over your life with its endless interruptions and often senseless requests. So let me show you a way to deal with email that takes only five minutes to set up. It’ll help you keep your email in check and give you more space to do your real job.

First Aid for Email Overload

You have a serious case of email overload and you’re losing the pedals. No worries, here’s what to do!

  1. Create an ‘Action’ folder in your inbox.
  2. Go through your mail, pick out the 10 to 15 most important ones and put them in the ‘Action’ folder. Work from here as long as your inbox isn’t cleared.
  3. Create a ‘Temporary’ folder. Put your complete inbox in here. Everything! You’ll be working through this in parts later, for now you can stop worrying about it.
  4. Hey presto, your inbox is empty! Add the most important email tasks to your todo list and start with Email Overload Prevention.

Mail Management

Email Overload Prevention

When dealing with email overload prevention, carry out the following steps.

  1. Work from top to bottom, from recent to older.
  2. Go through your COMPLETE inbox every time you open it. So don’t leave your email open all the time; open it and then deal with the inbox. That means you can’t just ‘check your mail’ anymore, there’s work to be done!
  3. Process quickly. Take one of the following actions with every mail. Don’t spend more than half a minute on any given email.
    • Delete (as much as possible)
    • Archive (when it contains information you may need later)
    • Answer (quickly, in maximum four lines) and delete/archive
    • Put in the ‘Action’ folder and add to your todo list. IMPORTANT: DO NOT work on ANY of your todos while processing your mail! No, not even the small ones.
    • Clear the inbox, close your email programme or turn of the internet.
  4. Limit your email time. Open your inbox a couple of times a day to process it, then close it again.
  5. Only do email. Think of the Golden Rule of Productivity: choose one thing and dedicate yourself to it. There is a difference between emails and the work that they contain – keep them separated. Make a list while you process your emails, then close your email and start on the work (according to your priorities).

Inbox Management

Taking care of old business

So now you’ve got your emails under control. Great! You’re still sitting on a giant dungpile of emails that may or may not contain something important. Here’s how you deal with it:

1. Process it in little parts. There’s nothing more deadening than quickly going through hundreds of emails. Do it in little blocks of 5 minutes and it actually becomes fun! It’s an ideal break from some other work, a no-brainer with instant results.

2. Use the same procedure as for your inbox. Start on top, 30 seconds max per mail, delete as much as possible, only do email…

Do this and your inbox could be cleaned within the week, and the email monster tamed. Congratulations on regaining your freedom! Here, have a badge.

Email Time Management

The next article describes a few more handy tips to deal with email.

Don’t forget to check out the previous articles in this series:

  1. 6 Surprising Causes Of Procrastination
  2. How To Overcome Procrastination – RIGHT NOW
  3. The One And Only Way To Increase Productivity
  4. 10 Simple Ways To Improve Productivity Right Now
  5. How To Set Priorities – Stephen Covey’s Time Management Grid Revealed

PS.: Now that you’re here, do leave a comment. Even if it’s a small one! A blog is so much more fun when people react to it…

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2 Responses to “How To Manage E-mail Overload In 3 Easy Steps”

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