Conquering Email Overload

conquer email overload

We get too many emails, am I right? I’ve heard of people taking the drastic measure of completely wiping out their inboxes and starting with a clean slate. I have to say, that tactic strikes fear into my heart, even though I completely understand the reason for wanting to do just that. If you’re not into taking such drastic measures, there are some ideas I have for conquering email overload. They may not be easy. The might not be reasonable (in your mind, at first!). You may think, “I don’t have time to do this!”

Take a deep breath and answer me this, “Do you have time to keep looking at an overflowing inbox and the energy it is draining from you?” Probably not.

My email overload story.

At one time, I was “managing” (I use that term loosely) three active inboxes. At one time, I was looking at more than 30,000 unread messages when I counted them all up from all inboxes. Let’s just say I wanted to cry. Who knows, I probably DID cry.

How did the emails get so out of control?

Did it happen overnight? I went from 0 unread to 30,000? Not likely. It just creeps up on you. You have good intentions of getting to those unread messages during the day. Well, then the day gets away from you and all of a sudden, you’re going to get to your messages the next day. Or you have the brilliant solution to sort the messages into folders as a way to organize yourself. Know what happens then? You’re looking at unread messages taunting you from folders and those folders just get more overflowing every passing day.

Don’t give up on regaining control of your email.


Do the majority of your emails fall into these categories?

  1. Spam
  2. Subscriptions
  3. Social media notifications
  4. Client messages
  5. Jokes from friends and family

Spam ~ Depending on the email carrier you use, many of them will filter into a spam inbox where you can simply click and delete them all. If that isn’t the case with your email provider, then you will need to manually delete them. Flag them as spam and your email provider may mark them as spam the next time they hit your inbox.

Subscriptions ~ I admit, I love “free downloads” when I visit a website and will give up my email address to get the download. I have every intention of opening and reading said newsletters, but it doesn’t usually happen. Who do I read without fail? Tabitha Dumas, Chris Brogan, Jeff Herring and Rob Hatch. The others, well, I flag them and think, “when I get caught up and have a free minute, I will definitely read them.” Well, I am not sure when that minute will arrive, but it hasn’t yet. So, I took a bold step and just started unsubscribing. Hey, don’t take it personally, I may be helping your email stats by unsubscribing rather than my showing up as an “unread” or “unopened” on your stats. You’re welcome.

Social media notifications ~ Shut them off. When you jump back into Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn you will see the notifications there. You really don’t need to be reminded twice, do you?

Client messages ~ These are messages that should get your immediate attention. When I say attention I mean, when you touch them you need to act on them. Touch a message one time only. Don’t look at it and think, “That’s too involved. I’ll get to it later.” Well, guess what? When later comes, it will still be too involved. It will also be pressing down on your thoughts all day and draining your energy. Take care of it now.

Jokes from friends and family ~ Just say “no.” Either delete them when they arrive or tell your friends and family, “hey I love you, but I just can’t handle all of these emails. Can we pare it back?” Sure, you may hurt someone’s feelings, but hey, it’s their mental health or yours, right? Tough love, people.

conquer email overloadEmail templates are your friends

If you haven’t made friends with email templates, I urge you to do just that. Canned responses can be made personal by adding in a greeting, “Hey, Bob!” If you’re in the type of business in which you’re answering the same type email regularly, make a template, tweak it and then send it out. You will be amazed at the time you save.

If you touch an email, you deal with an email

As I mentioned above, don’t let emails linger. Set aside time each day — perhaps several times a day — set a timer and go through your messages. If you open it, you take action then you delete it. Viola, you’re on your way to a manageable inbox.

Don’t check email in the morning

Yes, I saved the best (and for most people, the scariest) for last. Do. Not. Check. Email. In. The. Morning. I get annoyed at one word sentences, but in this case it needed to be done. Don’t lie in bed and scroll through email before your feet hit the floor. Don’t sit on the toilet (I know people who do this!) and answer an email. Don’t multitask and eat your breakfast while checking emails.

Set a time in your mind that works for you and stick with it. For me, I do not check email until 10 am eastern. I am up and working by about 6 am (this is after I’ve walked the dogs, read the paper, had my breakfast and relaxed with coffee), but I don’t get into email until 10 am. Why? Because the early morning hours are my most productive and I am not going to be putting out the fires of others when I could be working on my novel or my Compulsive Overachiever book. Until 10 am, my time is my own and I refuse to let emails take that away from me.

How do you stop checking email in the morning?

Let your clients know you won’t be checking email until (fill in the blank) o’clock. Tell them if they have an emergency, to text you. Set up an out of office message with an auto responder to let people know when you’ll get back to them.

Step away from the inbox and get on with your life!

I’m curious. What is the biggest number of emails you’ve ever had in your inbox? Are they still there? How do you address email overload?

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