If you’re like most people, email overload is a problem. No matter what business or industry you work in, emails are pretty much the go-to method of communication for most people. And that’s not counting the other junk that comes in through email, like newsletters and spam.
I wouldn’t say I like email overload a lot. Some people have 1,000+ unread emails in their inboxes (I’ve seen it on-screen shares, okay), and it doesn’t affect their productivity, which is fine! I can’t deal with that though—which is why I’ve been at inbox zero (meaning zero unread messages, not an empty inbox—more on this later) for at least the last couple of years now.
So how do I do it? I’ll show you.
What is email overload?
Simply put, email overload is a term used to describe what’s essentially the inability to keep on top of emails. Usually, it’s work emails specifically, but it applies to personal emails too.
This overwhelming backlog of incoming messages in your email inbox can be a mix of important messages, marketing emails you’re subscribed to, conversation threads with co-workers or friends, and more.
For me, being able to manage this email overload has done wonders for my work-life balance. Why? because I’m spending way less of my time trawling through my inbox and can focus on high-value tasks. This means I’m more productive and efficient (and reduces the likelihood that I have to work overtime to catch up on work).
Why is email overload a problem?
It increases your general workload. Every unread message in your inbox represents time. It could be seconds or it could be minutes—but the time it takes for you to click on that email, read it, and respond to it (or delete it) will add up.
When you’ve got hundreds or thousands of emails, it does, trust me.
The nefarious thing about email overload is that you don’t really notice it until you realize you’ve barely made any headway on your to-do list and it’s somehow gotten longer. It’s all because of emails.
It saps your productivity:
Okay, I lied above. I said the nefarious thing about emails is that they can do a number on your workload. That’s not the only sneaky (negative) impact it can have. You also won’t notice email overload until you’ve burned through half your work day just going through emails. No matter how good your project management skills are (and I like to think mine are decent), watching those new emails continuously unroll in your inbox can sometimes feel like a Sisyphean task.
It increases the likelihood that you’ll lose information:
When you constantly get new messages flooding your inbox, the old stuff gets pushed down.
And if you receive an important email or follow-up but don’t check your inbox in time, it’s easy to lose track of it. There is a relatively simple way to solve this one and have more effective communication habits, which I’ll get to in the tips section below.
Ways to manage E-mail overload
Allot time for e-mail management
Create time to read and respond to your emails. The longer you wait to do the needful, the messier your inbox becomes. It leaves a bad impression on the sender when you take ages to respond to their message or even fail to respond at all. Depending on your email load, consider setting aside 5 – 10 minutes in the morning, afternoon, and evening to sort through your inbox.
Avoid the temptation of checking your email on impulse, especially when working. As mentioned earlier, it will take time before you can regain your composure and continue with what you were doing before you received the new email notification.
You don’t have to open every email in your inbox. There are some that you can identify at a glance. Quickly scroll through your inbox, select any unwanted messages, and delete them.
Unsubscribe from Unwanted Emails to prevent email overload
It may happen that most of the emails you receive are our marketing emails. When you make a purchase or register on some websites, you often have to provide your email address. Some ask permission to send you promotional content, which may be useful to you at the time. But after a while, it won’t be of value to you anymore.
Thus, an effective way to keep incoming emails to a minimum will be to unsubscribe from any service you no longer need. It is much more effective than manually deleting unwanted emails. All promotional emails must have an easy opt-out option. The link to unsubscribe is often placed inconspicuously at the bottom of the email body.
Use Different Email Addresses
Creating multiple email accounts can be helpful. For instance, you can keep a separate account for work, another for receiving mail from family and friends, and one for online shopping and subscriptions. It will help you to be better organized. You can manage all your accounts in one place by using the “Add account” option in your email app.
Filter Your Inbox
Most email services make organizing your inbox easy. New emails are filtered automatically so that you can easily identify those that are promotional, work-related, or from your social network.
Use the Search Function to Find Important Emails
If you are expecting an email or want to recall one that you previously received, it won’t be easy to start scrolling through hundreds of items in your inbox. Instead, make use of the search option to facilitate the process. Enter the name of the sender or a keyword that could be in the title or body of the message.
Most email services include advanced search options to help you narrow down your search results even better. For instance, Gmail offers search chips that provide search results by time frame, sender, attachments, and more. You can engage multiple search chips at once to quickly find an email you are looking for.
Most emails you receive each day may require the same response. Make things easier by using canned responses. You don’t have to type the same text every time you receive a new email. You can activate canned responses in Gmail through Settings > Advanced > Canned Responses. Afterward, write your reply text and save it.
Deleting multiple email messages to prevent email overload
- Open mail and go to your inbox.
- Tap Edit in the upper-right corner, then individually select the emails that you want to delete, or tap Select All.
- Tap “Trash” or “Archive.” If you only see Archive, touch and hold Archive to see other options like Trash Selected Messages.
Deleting a single email
- Open Mail and go to your Inbox.
- Tap Edit in the upper-right corner then selects the email that you want to delete.
- Tap Trash or Archive.
You can also quickly swipe left over a single email to delete it. Or touch and hold the email from your Inbox, then tap the Trash button in the menu that pops up.
If you’re trying to delete a message from within the email, tap the Archive button or the Trash button, then tap Archive Message or Trash Message.
Depending on the type of email account you have, you might see Archive instead of Trash when you try to delete emails. You can edit your mailbox behavior settings to change this.
Sorting through tens or hundreds of emails can be a daunting task. It costs individuals and businesses several hours of productive time every day—not to mention the stress and anxiety that stem from it. Fortunately, you can combat this problem by employing the effective methods suggested in this guide. Keep the emails you receive to a minimum, know when and how to respond to them, and learn to prioritize.
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