08 Mar 7 advice on dealing with email overload

On the one hand, email can be a wonderful way to keep track of colleagues, friends and family, a fairly quick way to share files, and a formal but leisurely mode of communication. On the other hand, email can be a time munching monster. If you are finding yourself with an email problem closer to the latter, you may be in need of some time management techniques. Let me show you how to tame your e-monster and turn it into a useful and brief part of your workday.

 

1. Connect your to-do list with your email system

Consider programs such as Things or Wunderlist to organize your tasks and place it next to your browser as you look at your email. This will help you remember that the time you are spending on email could be used on more pressing tasks.

 

 

2. When you are checking your email, make sure that that is all you’re doing

The urge to browse the internet or look up other documents can be strong when you are cleaning up your inbox. Something about email time makes it feel closer to free time than to work, and funny links or pictures that you may be sent in your email only exacerbate the illusion. This gives many people a tendency to stretch email time out with procrastination activities. Try to stay in your inbox and save any funny emails or links for later, when your pressing work is done.

 

3. Only check your emails 3 times a day

Some people get into the habit of checking their email every time they get a new one, or every 15 minutes in case they missed one. This means that they are constantly interrupted and never get in the momentum of their work. If something is truly that urgent that you need to deal with it right away, the other person would most likely give you a call.

 

4. Only look at each email once

This means that when you open an email, you read it carefully, answer it immediately, and then move on to the next one. Procrastination with answering emails is almost as time-consuming and stress-inducing as procrastination via web browsing, so get in the habit of answering immediately.

 

5. Creating a filing system

Setting up folders for different projects, areas of your life, or individuals can seriously reduce the time it takes if you need to search for emails later about specific topics. A disorganized inbox is like a disorganized home; you can’t find anything you need and you always feel vaguely stressed when you have to return to it.

 

6. When you are checking emails, deal with them right away

If it needs answering, answer it, then decide whether or not to file it or delete it. If there is information about a project in an email, write it down or add it to your to-do list, then file it away. Once again, keeping your inbox organized and clean will help save you time in the future, and reduce your stress in the present.

 

7. Your inbox is not your to-do list

Reading and organizing all your emails is hopefully not the most important thing you have to do all day, so try to get it done quickly and move on. Also, try not to say yes right away to every request that you get in your email without looking at your real to-do list. Consider everything you have to do that day before agreeing to a time-consuming task. This is another time when having your to-do list connected to your email or next to your browser can help you out.

 

Therese Gedda
therese.gedda@30minMBA.com