Buried in Emails? Three Ways to Avoid Inbox Overload



We’ve all experienced it: an email avalanche so overwhelming, sifting through every message seems impossible, which in turn sends productivity into a nosedive. 

In today’s digital world, email has become one of the most widely used communications tools – but have we finally reached inbox burnout? From the constant flow of internal messages to myriad meeting invitations, our inboxes often receive more traffic than Times Square at rush hour. 

Here’s how to regain control over your email and reduce its adverse effects on your productivity: 

1. Clarity is key
Take the time when writing and responding to emails to make sure you’re actually communicating what you’re trying to say. Instead of quickly firing off the first thing that comes to mind, spend some time outlining clear-cut directions or feedback when emailing colleagues or direct reports. Clearly stated, effective emails reduce superfluous questions, which reduces unnecessary meetings, which (you guessed it) reduces emails. 

2. Manage the influx
An obvious method for eliminating unnecessary emails is to unsubscribe from e-newsletters you never read and opt out of LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter notifications you never bother to check. These types of messages may account for a large number of emails clogging up your inbox. 

Remember to regulate the number of emails you send and minimize the number of people on the receiving end. Consider whether you are copying too many colleagues on needless “for your information” emails – talk with your peers (especially supervisors) to determine whether they should be looped in on an entire conversation, or just notified when a final decision has been made. Also, avoid sending one-word “thank you!” notes, and never hit “Reply All” unless everyone needs to hear what you have to say. 

3. Keep it clean
Organization is essential to maintaining a well-managed inbox, so create folders (and sub-folders) for various projects or clients and file messages away for safe-keeping and easy reference in the future. 

When an email comes through, evaluate whether it should be deleted immediately (ads or newsletters), warrants a quick response (reply in a few minutes or less if you can) or requires no action (file it in the appropriate folder right away). Flag and prioritize emails that require responses with a longer thought process, and be sure to reply to them in a timely manner. 

Don’t let your unruly inbox get the best of you –schedule regular 15-minute intervals throughout your day to review your emails and respond to urgent matters. While it’s unreasonable to keep an eye on your inbox at all times, it’s also impractical to go all day without checking emails. Finding a reasonable balance will help you rein in your inbox and optimize your productivity. 

What are some email management tips and tricks you’ve put into action at your workplace? Share your ideas with us below.