Causes of email overload
- Too many messages
- Too long messages
- Not enough time
- Difficult to decide what to respond to first
- Thoughtfulness required
Effects of email overload
A research study, Case Study: evaluating the effect of email interruptions within the workplace
authored by Thomas Jackson of Loughborough University found that 70% of arriving emails were reacted to within 6 seconds. Once the email was addressed, it took an average employee 64 seconds to resume working at the same rate they were before the interruption.
Tips -- try one of these for a week!
Deal with each message only once (Getting Things Done)
- If action required, then do it, delegate it, or defer it.
- If no action required, then file it, delete it, or incubate it.
- Flag or file deferred messages. Ignore the read messages. Keep for future searches.
Organize messages by importance and urgency
- Rules automatically file messages into folders (advice from Inbox Zero)
- Use priority inbox to separate bulk mail, starred items, and unread items
- Use different color stars to indicate priority levels
Master the one-line response
- A short response may do the recipient a favor (Inbox Zero)
- Reply with a link.
- Ask a question.
- "I don't know."
- Know when not to reply.
Limit email interruptions, read email in bunches
- Turn off desktop notifications
- Check mail no more frequently than every 20 min
- Quit your email when you need a distraction-free workspace.
- Build a habit of reading email at specific times of day (hourly at most) and with a clear purpose.
Strengthen your scanning techniques
- Scan senders and subjects first. Pass over some messages immediately.
- Scan the first line of each paragraph. Pass over some messages based on that.
- Read some messages all the way through.
Eliminate extraneous email
- Limit list subscriptions and write rules to file the others.
- Put a stop to "reply-all" chains.
- Pick up the phone or walk to a colleague for a change.
- Separate your work and personal email.
Use Search to find old messages
- Search has become much more effective of late.
- Use keywords to find messages by text or by mail field (sender, subject, etc.)
- Search Sent Items to review a message you sent to someone else.
- Only put items in Trash that you really never want to see again.