Get a Grip on Email Overload

Is it just me, or is the monsoon of email rising like the earth’s oceans, ready to swamp you entirely if you don’t keep up every day? Give one political contribution and suddenly, every pol is your friend; join a professional organization and every related provider wants your business; and are there more and more nice Russian ladies wanting to meet you?

Besides driving you crazy, this deluge can cause you to miss the relatively small amount of important stuff in your mailbox that you need to know and act upon.  So what can you do to manage it all?

Manage that Email Monsoon

1) Arrange to get fewer emails.

  • Make sure your email program blocks spam (as well as possible)
  • Unsubscribe to newsletters you don’t need
  • Filter messages into folders (newsletters, sales, political messages and other stuff that you don’t want to see when it comes in, but can view when you’re ready)

2) Make your email interruptions less frequent

  • Adjust your settings to check for email every ½ hour or hour rather than every minute – you can check manually when you’re expecting something urgent
  • Or, turn your email program off altogether when you need to concentrate. (Make sure your essential contacts know how to reach you another way when it’s urgent.)

3) Get emails out of your main inbox as quickly as possible

  • Delete unneeded emails
  • Answer easy emails quickly
  • Create a “HOLDER” folder for emails you’ve answered, but that you’re not yet ready to delete because you may need to refer to them again
  • Try to keep your inbox down to no more emails than can be viewed on one computer screen

4) Consider further steps:

  • Create multiple accounts and give your “most important” email address to only a select few. When you want to focus, you can have your computer display only those incoming messages.
  • Declare “Email Bankruptcy” if you’re hopelessly under water. If you’re afraid to delete it all, move them all to a BANKRUPTCY folder that you can access and search with names or key words if you need to.

For the past few weeks I’ve been trying out a free trail of a service called SaneBox, which studies your email habits and diverts most incoming messages (messages it thinks are not urgent) to a folder called SaneLater.  Then once a day, or however often you want it to, it sends you an email that lists and gives you access to all the emails it has diverted to that folder. You can, of course, check that SaneLater box as often as you want.  I’m actually amazed at how much of what I don’t need to know urgently, I don’t need to know at all!  It really helps.

Stopping the constant tide of email is so important if you want to get work done and to use your brain creatively.  Interruptions really interfere with your mind’s ability to integrate material. Multitasking severely dumbs down your brain.

Make your computer your helper and not your heckler.

What tips would you like to add?

14 Responses to Get a Grip on Email Overload
  1. Piggs Mayfly
    December 21, 2012 | 5:52 pm

    Failing to practice email hygiene is it’s own karma. Many like to whinge about it yet have never really bothered to check out their email programs abilities. Desk top crowded with ‘to do’ documents, monitor fringed with post-its?, (look around the office), they can look busy, till you start to notice the items rarely change.

    The above are all great tactics, that they are not as familiar to us as the road rules seems to point to a failure of education services and IT departments. Imagine giving a car to someone who did not the road rules. Yet the potential damage, to finances, to reputation and privacy and to your employers business could be horrendous in their own way.

    So bight the bullet and have a close look at the tools already available to you.


  2. Joanne
    December 22, 2012 | 9:42 am

    Thanks for your comment. I totally agree that there are techniques for combating email overload that are available — and that people just need to learn about them. My point is that if you let it, your computer will take over your life. We all need tips and strategies for making our computers our helper rather than our heckler. Let me know what some of your favorites are and I’ll be glad to share them — or just share a link to your favorite posts on the topic.

  3. Paul
    December 27, 2012 | 4:27 pm

    I use a programme called Mailwasher from Fire Trust. Set it up and you get a preview of all your emails from any account you may have. You can then wash out unnecessary ones leaving you with only those you wish to look at.

  4. Adam
    January 1, 2013 | 4:30 pm

    Using Gmail? go to settings>Filters and select “Create new filter” (It’s down the bottom)
    Select “Includes the words” and copy and paste the following:

    repl1ica OR rep1icawatches OR pills OR vicodin OR codeine OR buyviagra OR viagra OR repl1cawatches OR repl1ca OR rolex OR penis OR enlargement OR penisenlargement OR pfizer OR pharmacy OR cializ OR cializviagra

    Click “Create filter” then click on “OK” to discard changes. On the next screen check the “Delete” box, and click on “Create filter”

    This will stop a lot of spam, you can also edit the filter later and add other words that you find cropping up regularly in Spam.

  5. Joanne
    January 2, 2013 | 10:07 pm

    Thank you, Helen, for your helpful comments and perspective!

  6. jasmine
    January 3, 2013 | 12:49 am

    i have created 3-4 gmail accounts, one for friends and inportant stuff, 1 for subscriptions and registration to sites that i wont be using for long (where it doesnt matter if the mail is hacked) and third for job search (for all interview/applications that i send out). keeps the items very clean.