Email Overload

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By Amy Tierce

I was in a two-hour meeting this morning, and came back to my desk to 78 new emails.

At any given time I carry about 20 emails in my inbox; at the end of the day I prefer to have it empty.  I use the emails in my inbox as part of my ‘to do’ list, dates I need to remember, something I need to reply to but requires some research or coordination, or a reminder of some kind for an immediate action.

When I got to my 78 emails, I immediately deleted any that I didn’t need, want, or care about, and replied to any that would take me three minutes or less.  Then I reviewed the remainder, some I replied that I would review and respond in depth later in the day or week (setting up proper expectations), and then moved that email into a follow up file. Some I delegated by replying and adding a recipient and handing the task off to the recipient I introduced through the reply email.  Some I need to take more time to read and review and consider how I will respond.  ALL of them will be addressed by the end of the day.  This practice took me 20 minutes to manage the 78 emails… and done! Now, as I sit at my desk working away, I will respond to email every 15 minutes or so and at the end of the day only ‘to do’ list remains.

Many trainers suggest we have other people manage our email.  I can tell you that I get so many positive responses from my business partners about how quickly I respond to email requests, I would hate to miss that positive experience.  So, I will never have anyone manage my email!

Tricks to managing a lot of email:

  • Read the email! This may sound like a silly suggestion, but I know that more emails are created when we don’t fully read the email before responding. Often the question that I have is actually answered in the body of the email but because I was rushing, I didn’t fully read the content in its entirety. Then the chain just continues; read thoroughly and respond thoughtfully.
  • If you can respond in three minutes or less just do it. These are wise words from efficiency expert David Allen from his book Getting Things Done. Read the book, but in the meantime, if you can get IT done (whatever IT is) in three minutes or less… just do it!
  • Use your folders and file emails that you need later for later.
  • Use what I call – place holders, “thanks so much for reaching out to me, I am dashing out to a meeting, but I am looking forward to connecting with you, and I will reach back out this afternoon when I return at 4pm.” This way, the sender feels connected and is not left wondering if I received their email.
  • Use your out of office messages. If you know you are not available for a period of time, put an out of office message out there to control the flow of information and set up expectations.
  • STOP saving stuff. A friend of mine has over 1200 emails in her inbox; she goes in periodically and tries to delete them once read. The sale at Bloomingdales has passed, and the Chamber of Commerce will be sending you another list of upcoming activities. You don’t need to read them, and you don’t need to save them. Become a deleting machine.

Lastly, remember your ‘unsubscribe’ button and use it.  Eventually, many that you unsubscribe from will sneak back to you one way or another, but there is satisfaction in sending the message that you don’t want their junk mail.

Amy Tierce

Amy Tierce is the Regional Vice President of Wintrust Mortgage. 

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