Managing your email

By Tom Dowd | Jun 04, 2016

According to, it was estimated that 294 billion emails are sent each day, with about 75 percent considered spam, per estimates by the Radicati Group (2010). Getting through the 75 percent, plus the 25 percent you need for actual work, takes up valuable time. Now, imagine that every time you receive a new message, a bell sounds or a preview notice of incoming mail comes into view. When that happens, it grabs your attention and starts to pull you toward multitasking. We live in a very reactive work environment now. Sending and receiving emails has made us slaves to this form of communication, and keeps us leashed to whatever device gets us that information. Take back control and be proactive in dealing with ancillary email impacts. Let’s start to implement concrete email strategies.

• Block off and dedicate time to manage your email. Whether you do it in the morning, before lunch, late afternoon, or all of the above, you should have dedicated time for it and not take them on one at a time, throughout the day.

• Ignore new messages. Rather than behaving like Pavlov’s dog and responding to every bell that rings telling you that “You have mail,” become proactive and take control of when you choose to spend time reading email.

• Deal with it one time. Remember to touch an email once. Take action on the emails such as moving it to another location or scheduling a meeting or a phone call, but don’t read it and keep it there. This causes you to read it multiple times.

• Resist the immediate temptation to grab your smartphone. Don’t read emails immediately when you wake up. This will create an instant heavy workload and frustrated state of mind. Give yourself a chance to adjust to your day prior to checking your email.

• Turn off the feature that confirms you have a new email or provides a preview; you don’t want the distraction of knowing that an email came in. If you’re blocking off time and have set expectations with those you work with, you don’t need these features.

• Avoid unnecessary "thank you" emails. They often create an avalanche of somewhat meaningless emails that go back and forth. If it is truly worthy, call or write a heartfelt note. In my first six months at a new job, I had over 1,300 emails saying some version of thank you. There were some that were heartfelt, but there were others that were less sincere and simply read “thx.” The emails caught my attention and forced me to stop what I was doing to delete them.

• Simplify your organization. I recommend against setting up auto-filtering to organize emails by categories, senders, etc. It creates the need to look in multiple places when researching or looking for something. You should do your organizing through file management, since you get information from many sources, not just email. Build strong online file management systems to assist in searching for pertinent material.

Taking a proactive, methodical, and strategic approach to email management will allow you to take back your day and become a more productive professional.

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