October 30, 2008

6 Tips for Reducing E-mail Overload

Do you find a big hassle going through the amount of ‘junk’ email you receive everyday? I certainly do, and was glad to find this interesting article by Kim Komando on the Microsoft Office Live Small Business Website, giving six easy tips for reducing the high email overload.

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 is required, it may not need to go to everybody.Be brief and to the point; 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.


Amanda said...

Glad the article was helpful!

Shawn said...

Great article! Super helpful! Email is definitely the bane of my working existence. Anything I can do to reduce it is always welcome.

Hey, I'm actually working with Cisco on a tech contest I think you'd be interested in. Shoot me an email at: shawn@m80im.com and I'll give you the info if you're interested.

Alex said...


Kim's got some good ideas here. Email overload is hurting productivity everywhere, and any attempt to fix it is a step in the right direction.

I'd like to invite you and you readers to try out our new email service, OtherInbox. While the goals of responding appropriately and using subject lines properly are up to the user, OtherInbox can help you automaticaly organize the emails that are cluttering up your personal or work life.

When signing up, each user gets their own domain name (user.otherinbox.com) and they use that to sign up for their various newsletters and online services (facebook@user.otherinbox.com, mediapost@user.otherinbox.com, etc.)

Your inbox is automatically organized and folders are created for each address, allowing you to seperate these emails from your work or personal account.

We are in private beta, but you and your readers can sign up here:


I hope you enjoy trying us out, and I look forward to reading any ideas or comments you may have.

~The OtherInbox Team