How to Get a Handle on Email Overload
Each time I check my email, I feel overwhelmed with emails. I did a Google search on “email overload” at the time of writing this article; there were over 83 million results. I also did a Google search on email overload solution. I found three solutions that I plan to use. My goal is to spend 15 minutes a day making these changes.
A lot of people suffer from email overload. They feel that their inboxes are taking control of their lives.
Don’t let your unread messages pile up. You CAN get a handle on your email. Below, I listed some solutions to handle the existing pile of messages in your email. But before we delve into them, first, let’s get into the root of the problem: why do messages pile up in your email?
Reasons Why Email Overload Happens
To find a solution to your booming inbox problem, you must identify what’s causing it in the first place. There are various reasons why unread messages are piling up in your email. These range from some valid excuses to just plain bad habits.
Reason #1: You went to a vacation.
Taking a vacation gives you time to breathe. It allows you to enjoy life away from work. However, vacations could also mean new messages getting unread and unanswered.
This results to the dreaded pile up. That’s why a lot of Americans refuse to take vacation time, thinking they’ll have to work twice as hard before and after.
The same holds true when you take a sick leave.
Reason #2: You are not organized.
It’s not in your nature to sort things through. You find it hard to manage time at work, so naturally, you can’t squeeze reading emails in your schedule. Also, you tend to forget things a lot, and that includes replying to important emails. Worst, you don’t even know your priorities.
This bad trait of being disorganized makes it difficult for you to efficiently manage your email.
Reason #3: You easily get overwhelmed by the growing numbers.
First, it was only a hundred unread messages. You told yourself you’ll read it the next day, but you did not. Then, after a few days, the number multiplied. You got overwhelmed that you delayed it until you’re in the mood to open them. Weeks passed, and before you know it, you’re dealing with thousands of unread emails.
So, you end up completely ignoring them.
Negative Impact of Email Overload
Letting yourself drown in the pile of unread messages has negative impacts on you. This includes the following:
- Professional and personal stress
Because of thousands of messages piling up in your email, you tend to take your personal time to read through them. You read them at the dinner table, late into the night, and even during vacations. So, aside from getting stressed at the workplace, you also compromise your personal life dealing with email overload.
- “Fragmented” work
The more you stall dealing with your email, the more work you have to get done in little time. This leads you to juggling tasks, which results in lower productivity, reduced decision-making abilities, more errors, and omissions.
Email overload is unhealthy. It does not only compromise your peace of mind, but it also affects your performance. Below, we’ll guide you through with three proven solutions to address the growing problem.
3 Solutions to Your Growing Email Problem
Thinking about your inbox doesn’t have to leave you feeling distraught or hopeless. Reframe the role that your inbox plays in your life. Work on your habits and reshape them. Consider following these tips to solve the above mentioned roots of the problem:
Solution #1: Apply a good system for managing your tasks.
Before you go to a vacation, here’s what you need to do:
- Create a new folder and label it “Old email to process.”
- Move your messages from before your vacation.
Don’t let messages accumulate in your inbox. The goal is to get “inbox zero.” This will free you from overflowing pile that leads to stress. It’s a simple way to condition your mind and get the job done with less worries. From here, you can start working on these old messages through a good management system.
Then, when you do check your inbox after getting back from vacation, handle each message – and get rid of it. Sort from oldest to newest and process them quickly. Archive it automatically if you think it isn’t of any importance.
If you decide to read it, do so and address it right away by using one of these three ways:
- If you don’t want to respond or take any action, archive the message right away – and get it out of the way.
- If the message requires an immediate response that will take you only a few minutes, give it a quick reply – and archive the original message at once. Always remember that the shortest email is usually the most effective.
- If the message calls for an action or response that you can’t give right now or that can wait, employ the snooze function. This will keep the message out of your hair until a response becomes relevant or until you have the time to handle it.
What is the snooze Feature?
In Gmail this is a temporarily way to remove email and let Gmail know when you want them to reappear.
Taking these steps allows you to gain control of your inbox. You’ll stop looking at your inbox as a hopelessly disorganized mess and start seeing it as an organized list of tasks.
Solution #2: Use management tools and apps.
Don’t think of email as just something you squeeze in your schedule. Email is REAL work. That’s why you have to get it done on a regular basis.
But how do you organize yourself to do all your tasks, including checking your email? No, don’t even think of using your personal time. It will only result to increased stress outside work.
Rather, search for ways to create a more efficient system. I found using productivity tools and apps as one proven effective way.
The first thing to do is to make use of email filters. Aside from the Spam filter, you can also use filter on messages you want to receive. You can use Throttle and SpamDrain for that matter. This way, you won’t get distracted with the blast of email coming in your inbox every day.
But that’s for your desktop. You should also filter priority messages on your phone.
Smartphone notifications are great distractions – even when a great percentage of these notifications do not require your attention.
Use apps to filter out messages and reduce the number of persistent dings that you get on your phone. Create alerts so that you receive only notifications that you have pre-determined to be genuinely urgent and time sensitive.
Apps like Gmail and Outlook have algorithms to help you do this. They determine high-priority messages and limit notifications to include only these messages.
A friend of mind suggested I create a disposable email address for website that requires a valid email address. She said this would limit the amount of marketing material I receive from 3rd party advertisement.
Solution #3: Reset your attitude towards your inbox.
Getting overwhelmed won’t get you anywhere. Since messages already piled up in your email, all you can do now is to start working on them. Cut down the huge number of messages in your email gradually by having the right mindset. Simply put, you have to stop feeling overwhelmed.
There are two ways to make the job less overwhelming:
1.Break a larger task into smaller to-dos.
This makes the larger task more manageable. It prevents you from procrastinating because you’ll know where to begin.
Breaking down larger tasks helps you determine what action you should take next. This is because human memory is limited, and we have to stop once in a while to think what steps we should do next. When you break tasks into smaller ones beforehand, you’ll have a good grasp of the steps you have to take without getting off-track.
Also, it gives you a sense of accomplishment every time you finish a small task. This keeps you going and lets you complete the larger task eventually.
2. Time to focus on the task.
Don’t leave your inbox open all the time.
Living with an open inbox is counterproductive. You won’t be able to stop yourself from glancing at it every other minute to check if there are new messages. Doing so only adds up to your stress, making the task even more overwhelming.
An open inbox commands your attention. It draws you away from your other tasks. It makes you lose your focus.
Break the habit of checking your inbox more than you have to. To focus on the job, set a schedule for it. If checking it three times a day is too much to ask for, check it three times every hour. Gradually lengthen the gaps. You will eventually feel a reduced need to see each message as soon as it comes in.
Dealing with email overload can get overwhelming. But you don’t have to if you prepare yourself using the tips above. And here are the key takeaways to summarize this article.
The first tip teaches you how to prioritize your email so you don’t feel overwhelmed by overflowing messages.
The second tip tells you to look for ways to create a more efficient system. This includes using management tools to handle your existing pile and create a less stressful working environment.
The third tip helps to reset your attitude towards your desktop inbox. It helps you gain control and fight its counterproductive effects.
With a solid strategy, handy productivity tools, and the right mindset, you can turn thousands of messages into inbox zero. Use these tips to handle your inbox. Dictate your terms and take control – instead of letting email overload run your life.