My 5 Tips to managing the E-mail Flood

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Oh where art thou email … thy are my friend, but thy friend thou make’s my stressed. Common words adapted from Shakespeare to say that email is cherished but over used. It is early February, and I am eager for the year ahead, I am excited and in a very mind frame on the year ahead but I am acutely aware that my mind is more and more alert to my phone, laptop and any device that conveys any sort of message with my name on it. I am consciously and subconsciously checking email from my phone and the volume grows based on the information I seek and what I need. Is this healthy, is this productive …. I decline to answer but realise that it is only February and I need to re-fuel myself at this stage of a new year. I am been sucked into information overload and I need to manage it and this is how I am doing it now.

As a statistic, I get between 200 – 300 mails a day. This is outside of other IM, social media and other information sources. A good friend said to me, when you go into information overload (or what I like to refer to as the E-mail Flood), just delete the information and if your attention is required, you will be contacted. My aim is not to be that drastic but here is what I have done since February to re-vitalise my mind by managing the e-mail flood:

  • Tip 1. Be Ruthless and Block those that Waste Your Time:Reduce the amount of unwanted e-mail you receive in the first place. To that end, consider “block sender” your loyal sidekick in this continuing battle. Have no sentiment in this, block unneeded and time-wasting efforts from others.
  • Tip 2. Focus on Action and not Information E-mail:In most cases, email is based on information that would like to be presented to you, these are fine but can be immediately removed. I now divide my email in information mail (approximately 95% of my mail / messages is this form) and action (the other 5% need my attention). My inbox is now a set of action orientated mails and this turns into my daily action list. These action mails do not get moved or deleted until my side of the action is completed.
  • Tip 3. Spend time on managing the E-mail and not Reading it:- I have the best minds of my generation destroyed by e-mail folders and labels. Those tools held so much promise as they are rational ways to divide your e-mail into logical chunks. But you are moving e-mail and not auctioning it. Spend time on managing it and not just moving it. When an e-mail is moved to another folder, it is move there because it is not an actionable mail, it is an information mail. My focus is to spend time on managing the mail and for this, I give 20 – 30 minutes each day in doing so. This is my job as if I let my email browser do this, my action mails will get lost.
  • Tip 4. Use your E-mail Inbox as an Address Book:- Save yourself the time and trouble of lovingly and carefully compiling an address book. If you can keep all your action e-mails, you will have a searchable database of everyone you need to deal with and who has ever e-mailed you.
  • Tip 5. Accept that it is over-whelming and move on:- No system is bulletproof. Part of living with e-mail is knowing that there is a lot of it and there always will be, so relax. Don’t beat yourself up about it and accept we are only human.

The e-mail flood is a way of life and considering e-mail is 20+ years old, it is has now become a part of life and is really a part of our culture. Accept the fact it is a way of doing business, more for some than other. Also accept the fact our job is now to manage it and not deflect from it.

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