Fighting Back Against Email Overload

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Who doesn’t love email? It’s easy, convenient and trackable. We all have our various systems for managing it. Mine is far from perfect but I’m usually able to make quick decisions about each message I receive. Some emails I file away. Others I transfer to a different folder or project. Some I tag for the future and some I answer on the spot. It’s all about quick decisions. My eternal aim is to have just a few messages(Under twenty) at any given time in my mailbox. That’s the goal anyways.

It works. The field of email management is one where I feel pretty confident. However, the interruptions that come with email are another story.

The Problem

Like most people who work for a living, I keep my email client open all day. I don’t use a visual notification to alert me when new emails show up, but I do have an audio alert set up. I chose the quietest, shortest and least obtrusive alert. It’s a nice, gentle ping. Kind of relaxing actually.

But on some days, I can shoot from 20 to 120 messages in no time at all. There’s also that attention-craving Blackberry buzzing about my desk, also letting me know there are treasures to be read. How do you say no?

I try not to stray off task, but I am guilty of peeking once in a while when something comes in. Again, it’s hard to say no. The pause I take to take a peek at these emails has certainly begun to take chunks out of productivity. For instance, once the pause happens it takes me a few minutes to get back into the groove of writing. A lot of backtracking needs to be done.

This week I decided to face this problem head on.

The Solution

For me, the solution could not be removal of email. I need it. I also can’t even decide to look at it just once a day. Certain emails are time sensitive and that could be a disaster. But I no longer can afford to be run by the ping-pinging of new emails. I needed to turn the tables.

I shut down my email client.

Wait, didn’t I just say I wasn’t’ going to do that? Hear me out. I have more than 12 email accounts coming into my email client. Most of these are not accounts I need to check multiple times a day or even every day.

Also, having those twenty or so emails I have to act on staring me in the face all day tends to get, um, distracting. After all, I am not able to act on a great many of them yet.

As part of my solution, I open my email client just a few times a day to let messages download and to make sure I’m not missing anything important.

I changed my BlackBerry notification settings.

Gone are the vibrations that alert me to new messages. The Blackberry is a silent movie now.

I started using webmail.

My primary webmail account only contains my top-priority email, the messages I need to see quickly. None of these messages are tagged, labeled, colored or anything like that. There is no filtering of any kind whatsoever. This makes it perfect for a quick sneak and peek. Plus, I can delete the junk before it downloads into my email client, making it more manageable later on.

I (am trying to) reset my brain.

This is the hardest part of all. Training your brain into realizing that email WILL be there whenever you are done with what you are doing. You really and truly are not missing anything by waiting an hour to check it. The super important stuff can stream into your webmail and all will be right with the world.

That’s pretty much it. Call it a “zen state.” Call it “email meditation.” Call it what you will. It’s working. I finally feel like email is working at my command and not the other way around. It may seem simple, but I think I’m winning this battle.

What’s Your Problem?

What are your most pressing email concerns and what do you do to fix them?

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  1. While we’re in Fighting Back Against Email Overload | webRulon blog mode, After you have gotten your form set up, you’ll need to create a pop email account on your server just for your list(s). You can title it “lists” or whatever you’d like. What’s more, you must set up two email aliases for subscription requests. As an example, yourlist-subscribe@yourdomain.com and yourlist-unsubscribe@yourdomain.com.

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