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Taming My Email Overload - Early Steps Are Paying Off

by Yvonne Russell on March 26th, 2008

Earlier in March I vowed to take small steps to tame my email overload. I’m pleased to report it’s going well.

Step 1:
I’ve unsubscribed to most of my RSS and email feeds. I notice some don’t have an unsubscribe option, so these are proving more tricky.

Step 2:
I’ve also unsubscribed to all my Google Alerts. This takes care of about 60 emails per day.

Step 3:

I’ve deleted all my empty, duplicate and obsolete email folders. Why I had them in the first place, I’m not sure.

Taming my email overload will be a big job, but I’m committed to it. I’ll report back as I go along.

My main ongoing issues are too many stored emails (just in case I need them), and the ever present spam. I’ll set up rules for the latter and see what I can do about tightening this.

How about you? Any tips for taming email overload? How do you handle emails you want to keep?

© Image courtesy of Yvonne Russell at Grow Your Writing Business.com

Tags: , google alerts, tame email,

POSTED IN: Email, Organization, Technology

23 opinions for Taming My Email Overload - Early Steps Are Paying Off

  • Grant D Griffiths
    Mar 26, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    Timely post. I knew my email had gotten the best of me when I found myself using my iPhone to answer emails while I was sitting in church one Sunday not too long ago.

  • Mary Emma Allen
    Mar 26, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    I’ve started trying to tame mine so I don’t have to sort through so many when I want to find something. I finally figured out how to create folders. (Simple process but I simply hadn’t taken the time.) Now the trick is not storing too much there so they become overloaded. I also try to go through e-mails at the end of the day and eliminate any that aren’t necessary, instead of letting them pile up…just as I’ve been doing with my postal mail. I’m still overwhelmed, so will do even more.

  • Mary Emma Allen
    Mar 26, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    Let us know how you make out in taming your e-mail, Grant.

  • Grant D Griffiths
    Mar 26, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    I will. Some of the steps I have taken already is to develop folders too. I have an archive folder and a respond to folder. I also have setup smart mailboxes where certain emails go to which are directed by my Mail program on my Mac. I am also looking at using http://www.awayfind.com/index.php to control my own bad habit of checking email as they come in.

    I know this will be a long process as I teach myself to control my email. But, we also have to make sure we are not so connected that our clients and prospective clients think we are accessible 24/7. We have created a monster and it is now time we tame it.

  • Kelly
    Mar 26, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    Interesting post, Yvonne. I think that one thing I’ve taken from it is that our collective “time stealers” vary. I actually find Google alerts and RSS feeds via email helpful because I waste less time on the internet surfing around. I think it’s key to focus on the ones that add value to your life.

    I agree that folders are a huge help for organizing email! Mac is great for that.

  • Yvonne Russell
    Mar 27, 2008 at 1:54 am

    Hi Grant
    Wow, that is a wake up call.

    I hear you about having created a monster with email and being contactable.

    I check my emails too often, so I’ll be interested in your experience with awayfind.com.

  • Yvonne Russell
    Mar 27, 2008 at 1:56 am

    Hi Mary Emma
    I agree it’s an ongoing process, and can often be overwhelming.

  • Yvonne Russell
    Mar 27, 2008 at 1:59 am

    Hi Kelly
    I loved the Google alerts but as I blog on varied topics, I was getting too many too often.

    I hope to reinstate at least some of these when I tame the emails.

    You make an interesting point that our “time stealers” vary.

  • Celine
    Mar 27, 2008 at 7:50 am

    Hi Yvonne, it’s nice to see how you’re progressing with taming your email :)

    I generally use the “Inbox Zero” approach. Nothing is in my inbox. Either I file them to an “Archive” folder (which is generic, although I have a few more specific archives for things like paypal notices and stuff from the b5business egroups, but the rest goes to a generic archive folder).

    If I need to respond to an email, I let it stay in my inbox until I do respond. This doesn’t take long as a few (3 at most) emails in my inbox makes me feel like there’s a stench of a dead body coming in from my inbox and I have to make it go away a.s.a.p. This has made me more efficient compared to waiting for days or weeks at a time before coming up with a response when my inbox was larger (because the “respond-to” emails weren’t as prominent.

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  • Yvonne Russell
    Mar 27, 2008 at 11:27 pm

    Hi Celine
    Thanks so much for sharing your tips - lessons from someone who has developed a tried and true approach.

  • Kelly
    Mar 28, 2008 at 8:16 am

    Anne at The Golden Pencil is having a similar discussion. I think email is something that we all struggle with in terms of what works for us. Because of my schedule, I rely a lot on email (it’s easier to drop a note at 1am than make a call). Finding a system is important.

    Wow, Celine, 0 in your inbox? That’s impressive. I sort like mad and I have a full inbox on a pretty regular basis.

  • Yvonne Russell
    Mar 28, 2008 at 6:43 pm

    Hi Kelly
    0 in the inbox seems magical, but mine is more like yours - still fairly full after regular sorting.

    I’ve added rules, so it is definitely getting better. I still have a few other emailing taming tips on my list to try, so I feel confident it will get better all the time.

  • Darlene
    Mar 29, 2008 at 11:07 am

    Okay, I have over 500 unread emails in my personal inbox. I know it is out of control. So my solution, delete them all! I haven’t had the courage to do so yet, but it will happen. Eventually the pressure will be too much and I will just begin again.

    I will say that my inbox at work is much more in control. I don’t allow myself many. They don’t hang around for longer than 3 days. When I have an actionable email, I flag it with a purple flag. If it is urgent it gets a red flag. Once I respond, I place a check next to it and delete it. I am required to keep track of actionable emails, so I have folders and I move my response to the corresponding folder.

    Any thoughts on wading through my personal email box will be considered.

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