Work & Wellbeing

How to Deal with Email Overload

Business Advice | 14 June 2023 | 12 months ago

Regardless of the type of business you have, there is a lot of admin to keep on top of, and it’s not uncommon for emails to be overlooked, read and accidentally ignored, or left for too long without being replied to. This is referred to as email overload, meaning the overwhelming amount of email messages that you receive and struggle to manage effectively. It occurs when the volume of incoming emails exceeds your ability to read, respond and organise them in a timely manner. Email overload is something that a lot of people deal with, but it’s exceptionally common about executives, business owners and decision makers.

A lot of busy executives find it difficult to keep on top of the vast amount of email they receive on a daily basis. This can be caused by a variety of things including a lack of organisation, people expecting responses immediately, too many unnecessary emails and an impossible amount of emails to keep on top of during a busy work day. The consequences of email overload include reduced productivity, increased stress levels and a decreased ability to focus on important tasks. So, it’s understandable why email overloading is something that a lot of people want to get under control. It can also lead to missed deadlines, miscommunication and a general sense of being overwhelmed at work.

Considering many of these emails are likely to be important or somewhat urgent, not keeping on top of the seemingly endless influx of emails can have a knock on effect. You could end up missing an important announcement, or ignoring an urgent request from another member of staff. You could miss notifications of meetings, project updates or someone asking for your insight on a key matter. Here’s how to save time and sort the mailbox.

Set Time Aside

One of the simplest changes to make is to set time aside to deal with your mailbox. Rather than dipping in and out all day, set aside a specific time once or twice a day to tackle the inbox, and reply to anything that needs to be replied to. Though this might seem counterproductive at first, it’s actually a very effective way of ensuring emails are replied to within the day. If you try to reply as and when they arrive, you will probably notice it becoming a stressful task that takes your attention away from other tasks throughout the day. You could even turn off email notifications if that helps. You could even establish clear boundaries for checking and responding to emails, and communicate those boundaries to colleagues and clients. For example, you could decide to only reply to emails during work hours.

Set Up Folders

Setting up folders will help to keep your mailbox organised, which can make dealing with it feel less of a daunting task. Organise your emails by topic or sender, and set up rules in your mail client to do so. This will ensure that everything goes where you need it to go, and keeps projects, clients, colleagues and topics in the same place. Setting up folders saves you jumping from topic to topic as you skim through, and it makes emails easier to find later on. It’s also a good way to stop your inbox feeling cluttered and busy, making it feel like an easier task to manage.

Filter the Spam

Spam and junk can quickly build up in your inbox, which is why it’s important to filter it out. Make sure that spam filters are set up and working – this is something that your IT admin can help you with if it’s not effective enough already – and check the right things are going into your inbox. You can also set up rules to block entire domains or certain words. Not only does this stop your inbox filling up with unwanted spam, but it ensures that important emails from legitimate senders aren’t filtered incorrectly, which could mean that you miss something important.

Delete and Unsubscribe

You are bound to receive emails that you don’t need to reply to, and some might even be irrelevant to you, or someone else might have replied so you don’t need to. When this happens, don’t be afraid of deleting and unsubscribing to emails. You don’t have to reply to every email, especially those where you are only cc’d, and not directly addressed. You might have received the email to keep you in the loop, but someone else might be a more suitable person to reply. You can also unsubscribe from mailing lists that you are not interested in. This might be because your interests or preferences have changed, or because you no longer find the emails engaging. Perhaps you signed up accidentally and don’t have any interest in what the emails have to say. It doesn’t take long to unsubscribe, but it can be quicker to block mailing lists, rather than simply unsubscribing from each one individually. Also, you can delete, archive or bulk ‘mark as read’ old emails to keep them out of your immediate view. This will help your inbox to feel less cluttered.

By implementing these strategies and adopting an organised approach to email management, you can reduce the impact of email overload and regain control over your inbox. The sooner you deal with email overload, the sooner you will find it easier to manage the sheer amount of emails that you receive on a daily basis. It’s also important to remember that there’s nothing wrong with taking a while to reply to an email, and not all messages need to be responded to instantly.

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