E-mail driving you crazy? Every time you delete one, do five more show up? Are you finding it impossible to answer every e-mail you receive? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you’re not alone!
Some people are even declaring e-mail bankruptcy — they dump every e-mail in their inbox and start over. If that’s not an option for you, then here are 10 tips to reduce e-mail overload.
- Get a good spam filter. Even if it saves you just 10 minutes a day, that adds up to over 59 hours a year.
- Cancel subscriptions to unwanted mailing lists, and opt-out of LEGITIMATE e-zines. But be careful! Trying to opt-out of spam e-mails will only alert the sender that they have a LIVE address. Also, make sure you are careful to check the “unsubscribe” or “opt-out” box when purchasing items online.
- Ask your friends to remove you from joke groups or chain messages. Simply explain your situation and, if they are good friends, they’ll take you out of their message group.
- Don’t post or publish your e-mail on web sites. Spammers will steal it and put it on their lists.
- Don’t respond to every e-mail you receive. Yes, it’s okay NOT to respond to some e-mails. If it’s a group e-mail, don’t respond with “okay” or “:)” — it’s not necessary unless the sender is specifically asking you a question or requesting a response.
- Be succinct. Restrict your messages to a few sentences. If you can’t, pick up the phone or talk in person. This will avoid the back-and-forth of e-mail conversation.
- Take advantage of subject lines. If possible, put your question in the subject line, or your message. If that’s not possible, make your subject line very descriptive so the recipient knows what your message is about. Here’s another tip; create a set of codes with your coworkers and place them in the subject line to help them process and prioritize messages. For example, use “FYI” for informational messages. Use “AR” for action required and “URG” 1. for urgent messages.
- Block time to answer your e-mail and fight the temptation to check your e-mail every few minutes. You will save yourself a lot of time and be far more productive.
- Respond to messages when you open them so you only read them once. If the e-mail requires an action step, schedule the action step and delete it from your inbox.
- Set time aside in the morning and the evening to process your inbox. Shoot for a completely empty inbox. File messages you need to keep and set reminders for messages that require you to follow up.
Now, here are some tips to keep from adding to the e-mail overload of others…
- Be courteous when forwarding an e-mail: summarize the thread and why you are sending it at the top of the e-mail.
- Don’t copy someone on a message unless it is necessary. And explain why you’re copying them. Recipients won’t need to guess your intentions. This means less back and forth messages.