Tips for Overcoming Email Overloadby Kaitlin Duck Sherwood
Here are my top tips:
- Recognize that your inbox is your to-do list. Think of it as
such and treat it as such.
- Get spam out of your inbox. There are many good anti-spam software packages out there now. Your company should have one; if you don't have one at home, get one. Spam Bayes is a good one, and free.
- If you are on an email list that is purely informational -- where messages never turn into "to-do" items -- use rules/filters to move the those messages to a subfolder. You can read them on some day when you don't have anything better to do.
- Get off of as many email lists as you can. Will the day come when you don't have anything better to do than to read that mailing list? If not, get off the list. If you can't figure out how to get off the list, use filters/rules to send those messages to the trash.
- Move messages out of your inbox when you no longer need to take
read, respond to, or act upon a message. Don't beat yourself up about
how you aren't filing your messages properly; just make a folder named "Done"
and put all your "Done" messages there. (The Google Archive
button does just this.)
- If your email program allows it, put a button in the toolbar for moving the selected message(s) to a final resting place. Put or use a button in the toolbar for moving to the next message. If you are done with a message, press the first button. If you still need to do something with a message, press the second button.
- Use rules/filters to prioritize your inbox. If possible, use rules to assign each message a category (or label) based on what group the sender belongs to. If you assign the categories so that they sort in the same order as their probable importance, then you can easily sort your inbox to list messages in roughly the order you want to deal with them.
- Save and reuse responses to questions that you get frequently.
- Write better messages:
- Discuss only one issue per message. People frequently forget about all but the first or last question, and thus you have to send/receive more messages to deal with the missing answer.
- Be sure to provide adequate context for your messages. Be particularly careful about pronouns in about the first three sentences: make sure it is absolutely clear what those pronouns are connected to.
- Make your emotional tone as obvious and explicit as you can.
- Use formal language and end messages with No Reply Needed to discourage responses.
- As much as possible, reply to only the sender instead of to everybody and use BCC instead of CC. Your correspondents then won't get in side conversations with each other that they copy you on.
- Don't forward any message that asks you to forward it to everyone you know. Those messages are almost always hoaxes or out of date. You might get lots of messages back telling you so.
- If someone you know sends you messages you don't want (like hoaxes or jokes), ask them very politely to stop. Otherwise, they will send you more.
- Read Overcome Email Overload with Microsoft Outlook 2000 and Outlook 2002 or Overcome Email Overload with Eudora 5 online If nothing else, read the first part of Chapter 2. Chapter 3 is slightly out of date, but will show you how to set up rules/filters. (If you are using a newer version of Outlook, the Outlook book will still be fine. If you are using something besides Outlook, you should probably look at the Eudora book.)