Three tips for email overload

Three tips for email overload

When Monday comes around (or anytime you look at a device to check emails) do you dread opening your inbox because you don’t want to be bombarded with the hundreds of emails at a time? Are you afraid of all the asks and requests that are going to be waiting for you as soon as you switch the computer on?

Email overload is a real issue, believe me after a week going from 50 to 5 I know the feeling too well. The thing is that the longer you put off opening your inbox, the worse it can and will be. And you don’t even want to contemplate what is waiting for you when you return from a holiday! Those emails will pile up and pile up…along with your stress and anxiety.

Here are three useful tips I use that might help ensure you won’t be a slave to your inbox and minimise the email overload you face.

  1. Manage expectations

In any situation where overload occurs, managing others (and your own) expectations should be your first priority. Managing expectations will not only help you to reduce your stress levels it will also ensure that others relying on you can keep moving forward and not be waiting for you to complete the task that they have asked of you.

We rely heavily on emails to get work done and our expectations quite often are to expect an immediate reply. However, that puts a lot of unnecessary pressure on you, particularly when you are busy, as others may expect you to jump as soon as you receive the request.

It is up to you to manage their expectations and let them know when they can expect a response.

In peak times of work, I often use an autoresponder to immediately notify people that I will respond within 24-48 hours, during specified hours of operation for clarification to avoid any further confusion. Make it clear that you will not reply to them at 7 pm on a Sunday evening via an autoresponder, so there are no misunderstandings regarding your work methodologies.

  1. Is it a quick reply to action or a task?

After seeing Dermot Crowley speak last year at the Clariden Global, 4th Annual Australia National EA/PA Conference about time management and email overflow strategies he covers in his award-winning book Smart Work, I decided to put them into practice.

In short, once an email comes in and you read it, you have a decision to make. Does the email require a simple (or complicated response) – at which point you can add it to your email reply list for that particular day – or do you need to turn the request into a task? If the latter is the case, then schedule it into your calendar to work on and then respond to let them know when they should expect it. Once it has been made into a task file it and move on. Tight deadlines will always happen if there is a tight deadline that you can’t make then some additional shuffling and negotiation to fit it in might need to happen.

Prioritise your workload as you would typically do and set your own boundaries. The aim is to clear your inbox by the end of the day and prioritise whatever tasks come up.

In addition to this, I particularly love this tip from Linda Murray on productivity. Be sure to watch it and always ensure you have time up your sleeve to manage the unexpected.

  1. Block time to respond

To use your time efficiently, another tip is to block specific times to reply to your emails, as well as to check them. On some days, doing it on an ad hoc regular basis can take up more time than it is worth. Try to avoid checking it irregularly throughout the day as that can pull your attention away from another more important task.

If email overload and overwhelm is happening, block out specific times to read your emails (early in the day works as it can help you prioritise how the rest of your day is going to go) and mark time to draft your responses – perhaps later that same morning or whatever works for you. Again, just because you have received an email, does not mean you have to reply instantly.

In the end, everyone works differently. While some of these might work for one person, we know too well it might not for others. To help your sanity and stress levels even trying one of these tips might work for you.

We’d love to hear your tips or if any of these work for you so be sure to share in the comments below!

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