Handling Email Overload

PING! Off goes your phone. You have another email. You reach over and glance at your screen to see the little orange circle has ticked up again. Does it make you wonder how anyone is handling email overload?

If you’re struggling to keep on top of your email, you’re not alone. Although I do my best to keep on top of mine, I occasionally still have upwards of several hundred unopened emails in my various inboxes. Add in voicemail messages (usually around 5 a week), physical mail and texts, and the list of communications demanding my attention is pretty mind boggling.

Handling email overload

Consequently, I spend a bit of time every week clearing down my messages, in addition to my daily sweeps. Emails are immediately categorised as requiring immediate action, suitable for delegation or deferring until later. For the first two categories, I will do what needs to be done immediately. This usually means adding a ‘to-do’ to my task list, a person to my call sheet, or an event to my calendar.

For those which might require more thought – either newsletters which I read in the morning, or personal correspondence which takes time to respond to, I’ll keep them in the inbox, and handle them on one of my two ‘admin’ days.

Keeping a constant flow of mail travelling through the system is essential for keeping control. When message stack up, I miss important information and events. It’s not just important to keep on top of information in your inbox – your method of response is also important.

Writing clear and meaning messages can help to reduce the amount of mail you receive. By issuing clear information and instructions, you’ll drastically reduce the amount of mail requesting clarification on a topic. Make sure you have a clear purpose for writing the message, state whatever information or action needs to be taken clear, include your supporting documentation and try to add an effective subject line.

It’s also important to see the value in saying ‘no’ as regularly as you say ‘yes’. I think of myself as a generally helpful individual, but as I took on more responsibilities I quickly came to see that I’d be swamped if I said yes to every request that came my way.

Consequently, I now say no to anything which doesn’t have a clear reason for my involvement. By saying no more often, I’ve gained time to say yes to the things that are really important to me, giving them more time and focus.

Admittedly, handling a busy inbox is still an on-going project for me. Some weeks are better than other, but just as I think I’ve cracked it, I usually let things slide again. Despite this, these tips have definitely helped to handle the way I use my inbox, improving my effectiveness and productivity. 

Following these tips will help you to start handling email overload. Smartphones and tablets make communication more convenient, but they shouldn’t add extra stress to your life. Take control of your email inbox and improve your productivity today.

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