For most of us cleaning out our email is like battling the powers of darkness. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are a few easy steps to help you get control of your inbox.
1. Get a good spam filter. Even if it only saves you 5 to 10 minutes a day, that could save you 30 to 60 hours in a year. Every little bit helps.
2. Cancel subscriptions to unwanted mailing lists. You can’t read it all, and let’s face it, if you can’t read it at the time, you’re probably not going to go back and read it later. It will just get buried in the next pile of mail. So only keep the subscriptions you know you can and will read.
3. Ask your friends to remove you from chain messages. If they’re your friends and you explain the situation to them, they’ll be happy to help you out. Who knows, they may be in the same situation, and you might end up encouraging them.
4. Don’t post your email on web sites. It’s an open invitation to spammers.
5. Don’t respond to every email you receive. Honestly, not every email requires a response, does it? Exercise good judgment.
6. Be concise. Limit yourself to a few clear sentences. If the situation can’t be explained easily, pick up the phone and talk in person. This will save on all those back and forth email clarifications.
7. Take advantage of the subject line. Make it as descriptive as possible so your recipient knows what the email is about. Or if possible, put your message or question in the subject line. This facilitates quick action.
8. Don’t check your email every 5 minutes. Jumping in and out of projects to answer email is a huge time waster. Plus, you’re more likely to read your messages without taking any definite action because you’re already in the middle of something else.
9. Only read a message once. When you open an email message, read it, respond, or take the necessary action, and then delete it. (If you really think you’ll need the information, file it. But in a folder, not your inbox).
10. Schedule time to process your inbox. Set aside blocks of time, morning and evening, to check and answer email. And then stick to it. You will be far more productive in your communication, organization, and project management.
What strategies have you found useful for combatting email overload?