Managing email overload

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

No matter what new fancy technology comes our way, the trusty electronic mail is still the preferred method of communication for businesses to exchange messages.

Whether you are a notorious filer, deleter or over subscriber, we all have our own systems in place to get through the flurry of messages we send and receive each day but it’s important to follow a few key tips and tricks to get the best use of your time.

Tip 1: Check your email – don’t avoid it!

Sounds simple enough, but we’ve all read an email, marked it as unread and told ourselves we will deal with that later.

Instead of the avoidance method when you don’t have time to reply promptly, a simple tip is to check your emails at set points during the day when you have capacity to ‘deal with things’ to avoid interrupting your workflow. Don’t forget to let your clients and colleagues know that you will always be available via phone for emergencies though!

Tip 2: The ‘Two Minute Rule’

If you haven’t heard about David Allen’s two-minute rule from his Getting Things Done platform then feast your eyes on the simple, life changing concept below:

If the email will take less than two minutes to read and reply to, then take care of it right now, even if it’s not a high priority.

The idea behind this is that if it takes less than two minutes to action, it takes longer to read and then store the task away ‘to do later’ than it would to just take care of the task now.

For emails that will take longer than two minutes to read or respond to, schedule time on your calendar, or add this as an action on your to-do list.

  • Most email programs allow you to highlight, flag, or star messages that need a response, so utilise this handy feature whenever you can.

Tip 3: Organise your inbox

Sounds simple right? Creating folders within your inbox helps to prioritise your tasks and they act as an easy option to find stored emails (how often do you get stuck in a vortex when searching for an email!?).

To make the most of your folders, create a rule of thumb for yourself to always categorise the email and file it away as soon as you receive it.

You can even set ‘rules’ for your email inbox to filter out and sort non direct emails (FYI) or those that you are CC’d into and you can come back to these later – chances are if you are CC’d into an email it is just an ‘FYI’.

Tip 4: Don’t wait for 2021, start good email habits now!

One of the best things you can do to limit the amount of emails you need to process, is to encourage people to send you less.

Stop and think before you CC a colleague/client/supplier in – is this actually relevant to them? Can I walk past their desk later and mention it or can I mention it in my meeting with them later this week or would they prefer a short and snappy text message?

Ask yourself whether you need to hit the ‘reply all’ button or whether you can liaise directly with the person involved.

Eliminate the clutter – unsubscribe from all the ‘noise’. Do you really need to be subscribed to email updates from every shop that you have ever purchased from?

Check out the MindTools blog here for more in-depth tips.