6 tips for reducing e-mail overload

By Kim Komando

Lately, more people are declaring bankruptcy. No, they’re not financially insolvent. They just can’t keep up with e-mail. They empty their inbox, announce e-mail bankruptcy, and start over from scratch.

Don’t let it happen to you. Get a grip on the problem before it is too late.

Slash the number of new messages
Your first goal is to reduce the amount of incoming e-mail. So cancel subscriptions to unwanted mailing lists. The messages become a nuisance if you don’t have time to read them.

A good spam filter reduces the amount of spam reaching your inbox. But don’t expect to eliminate spam completely. Some will still get through.

Do your friends send jokes or chain messages? Explain your situation and ask that they stop. Hopefully, they’ll oblige.

Respond appropriately
Not all e-mail requires a response. If you receive an e-mail addressed to several people, you may not need to respond. If a response it required, it may not need to go to everybody.

Be succinct; restrict your messages to a few sentences. If you can’t, pick up the phone or talk in person.

If an e-mail contains several different points, respond to each in separate messages. This may take longer at first. But, it will be easier to deal with each e-mail thread.

Take advantage of subject lines
Subject lines should relate to the body of the e-mail. So be as descriptive as possible. Subject lines that say things like “question” or “hello” should be avoided. Recipients won’t know what the message is about. And it will be difficult for you to categorize responses.

If you have a one-line e-mail, put it in the subject line. This will save you and the recipient valuable time.

If possible, create a set of codes with your co-workers. Placed in the subject line, codes help you process and prioritize messages.

For example, use “FYI” for informational messages. Use “AR” for action required and “URG” for urgent messages.

Forwarding and copying
Be courteous when forwarding an e-mail. Summarize the message and say why you’re forwarding it. This is particularly helpful if the e-mail contains several messages.

Recipients will appreciate your thoughtfulness. They won’t need to read through several messages to guess your thoughts. This will cut down on questions from recipients.

Don’t copy someone on a message unless it is necessary. And explain why you’re copying them. Recipients won’t need to guess your intentions. This means less back and forth messages.

Be disciplined
Avoid the temptation to check your e-mail every few minutes. Check it every hour on the hour for important messages. If you can go longer, do so. Of course, this might not be feasible in some work environments.

Set time aside each morning and evening to process your inbox. When you’re done, it should be completely empty. File messages you need to keep. Set reminders for messages that require you to follow up.

Respond to messages immediately, so you only read them once. There is an exception to this rule. If emotions might govern your response, give yourself a cooling-down period.

Use your e-mail program’s tools
Explore the tools your e-mail program offers. I already mentioned setting follow-up reminders. Filters and folders can help you file and prioritize mail. Auto-responders can alert business associates when you’re out of town. You won’t come back to a full inbox.


One Response

  1. […] articles suggest some ways to reduce the volume of e-mail, and here are some more. But the forward-looking lawyer might want to start thinking now about what will […]

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