4 Steps to Recover from Email Overwhelm

iPhone screen showing empty inboxSuffering from an overflowing inbox? You're not alone.

Email has been a pandemic in the business world. I've sat with executive coaching clients and seen the emails creep in -- a new message every minute or two. Everywhere I've gone to consult and train, email has been one of the top complaints. It's insane.

Maybe your email is out of control right now (in fact, if you're still reading, I assume it is!) Here are 4 steps you can take to recover and put your inbox on cruise control:

1. Drag all emails that are 30 days or older from your inbox into an "Old Email" folder.

If you haven't responded in 30 days, there will probably be no consequence to ignoring them. This gives you a manageable inbox to work with.

2. Spend dedicated time each day processing your email

This is how you'll keep it under control (instead of it controlling you). Schedule time to empty your inbox and ignore it until then. Otherwise, your life will be ruled by latest and loudest.

A good rule of thumb is to start with 30-60 minutes per day. The more consistently you do this, the quicker you'll get to inbox zero each day.

3. Deal with email one at a time

The key to dealing with an email is to decide what it is and whether you need to do anything about it. Here are four options to do that (inspired by the GTD® workflow model:)
  • Do it - If it can be done in 2 minutes or less
  • Defer it - If it takes longer than 2 minutes, add to a project or action list
  • Delegate it - If somebody else is better suited to do it
  • Delete or file it - If it's not actionable

You can deal with an email once and get it out of your inbox using these steps -- or you can deal with it over and over again. Every time you see it, your brain will give it some attention, so make sure you see it only once.

P.S. eProductivity provides the tools to quickly turn your emails into projects or actions as needed, or file the email for reference.

4. Each day, drag a few more emails from the "Old Email" folder back into your inbox.

Include these emails in your daily processing. Conquer your current email and chip away at the old, and before long your mail file will be well and truly empty.

By chipping away at your old emails and maintaining your current email inflow with the rules outlined above, you'll quickly reach a fully processed inbox zero -- and keep it that way.

The magic of an empty inbox -- it's a kind of peaceful, complete, "zen" feeling. I've seen many people experience this for the first time ever -- they look so happy, elated, relieved. And it only gets better when they realize they can achieve that again and again, no matter how many emails show up.

These tips will get you on the path to an inbox that's under control, and that's a great feeling. One of my coaching clients (I won't say who) had over 17,000 emails in his inbox at one point. By following these guidelines and using his eProductivity tools, he's been able to get his inbox to zero and keep it there.

No matter how many emails you have, there's hope!


P.S. Want to give feedback, complain about email, ask a question, or share your success? Connect with eProductivity on Facebook and Twitter!

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