In the time it takes you to read this sentence, more than 2 million business related e-mails have been sent. And another million right now. According to the Radicati Group, 89 billion business emails are sent every day, and that number is expected to continue to increase, reaching nearly 150 billion daily business emails per day in 2016.
While many of those emails are important and essential to daily business, there’s no doubt that many of those do nothing more than clutter inboxes and take up time. And dealing with these missives takes precious time away from other more important tasks, like you know, actually doing your job.
So whether you get stressed about by 267 unread e-mails or only seven, here are 10 ways to deal with an overflowing email inbox that will not only help give you piece of mind, but will hopefully also make you more productive.
Simplify Your Filing – You may think you’re saving time by filing e-mails into hyper-detailed folders, but you may be overdoing it. Consider creating an “archive” folder for e-mails you need to keep, and broad project or topic descriptions to put in specific e-mails.
Delete When You’re Done – Finished reading an e-mail? If you have no more use for it, delete it right away. No reason to let it linger.
Avoid E-mail Limbo – If you’re not going to respond to an e-mail right away, don’t just leave it in your inbox. Move it to your action item folder so you can deal with it as soon as you’re done completing other tasks.
Search for What You Need – Learn how to use your e-mail’s built-in search functionality to quickly find old e-mails you need. This can be much quicker than searching specific archive folders for the e-mail, and underscores that hyper-detailed filing may not be the best use of your time.
Check E-mail On Your Terms – Take charge of your e-mail and determine when you’ll check it, whether it’s every 15 minutes, hour or even twice a day. As Tim Ferris suggests in his book The Four Hour Workweek, never check your e-mail as the first thing in the morning, and only check in periodically throughout the day.
Turn off E-mail Notifications – There’s no reason to trigger your intrinsic FOMO (fear of missing out) every time you hear the mail alert, so turn off your computer’s sound and pop-up notifications and your smartphone’s vibration notices so you’re not tempted to see what’s there at times when you don’t need to be checking in.
Don’t Use Email as a To-Do List – There are plenty of other ways to assign yourself tasks and to-do lists, don’t leave e-mails unread for the purpose of reminding you to do something. Come up with another way to add to your task list, otherwise you may soon find yourself with gobs of unread e-mails that you’re not acting upon.
Avoid Sending E-mails If You Can – If you’re having problems with too many e-mails, why continue to add to it. Find ways to cut down on the e-mails you send and help others avoid the clutter in their inbox.
Focus Your Written Emails – If you do need to put together an e-mail, make it as efficient and easy-to-understand as possible. Establish a three-sentence rule or use bullet points to clearly and quickly convey your message.
Manage Expectations – Use out-of-office to inform others of your e-mail policies and other ways to reach you if urgent, and don’t get caught up in the trap of feeling the need to respond to everything immediately.