Tackling the Volume | My War Against Email Clutter (Part 1)

email clutter

Email Clutter Must Stop

I was a buried in email clutter, and it was ugly. My program was open all day and all night. I was spending about 75% of my time scrolling, reacting, deleting, forwarding, filing, and fretting over my inbox. So I decided to wage a war. The sheer volume of email clutter – that is by nature organized in chronological order – made it impossible to prioritize and I was overlooking things that were important and actually required action. The volume clouded my brain and workspace. The volume of email was stressful because it was a constant reminder of everything I wasn’t getting to. So it was clear that the first step of my war against email was to tackle the volume of emails and quiet my digital workspace.  

  1. Unsubscribe from lists. Sure it only takes a second to delete an email, but those seconds add up and are a waste of time. If it’s from a group that sends WAY too many emails or I NEVER open or read their emails, why am I permitting them to clutter my inbox?  The bulk of this process took about a month, but I started seeing results in a couple of weeks.
  2. Coach my Team. I enlisted my Team to help me in my battle. I asked them to “batch” their emails – combining several emails into one. I asked them to clarify in the subject line whether they needed a response. I asked them to clarify in the body what they specifically needed from me, and when they needed it. I asked them to be brief. Finally, whenever possible, I asked them to use the old fashioned “chat” method rather than email. They enthusiastically supported my effort and I saw immediate results in the volume, clarity, and clear prioritization of staff driven emails.
  3. Stop Having Conversations on Email. This was my part. If I don’t want my inbox cluttered, then I must not clutter others’ either. I stopped digital chatting. I picked up the phone – I know… shocking….

Addressing the volume of email went a LONG way in quieting the digital noise and quieting my mind enough to approach a manageable email inbox. Next I would budget my time and toy with my filing system to further manage my inbox. Those tips to come.

Goal? ZERO email Friday. Can it be done?

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  1. Leilani Carrara says:

    Inbox Zero can be done. http://www.43folders.com/izero Merlin has been my sherpa to email sanity – I’ve done it twice, and am working to do it again with my current box. My failure zone is in large part with newsletter subscriptions – boy, they gain on you fast. Keep up the good work – it’s so rewarding. Especially when you get to the Processing to Zero part. Euthanasia – it’s a good thing. :)

    • I so checked out that site – that is GREAT! What a great system for getting it under control. I’m totally periodic with mine – sometimes better than others – but overall it is MUCH better than 6 months ago. Yes, the subscriptions are sooooo tricky, because many we have to stay on top of. And my situation is totally different than yours – but when I’m quiet and think about what really matters for our group – time to newsletters does not equate with strategic planning, relationships, and growth. Thanks for stopping by Leilani!

  2. I haven’t worked in years and when I last did, email was not used nearly as much then as it is now. Most people still relied on voicemail. I get overwhelmed enough with all my personal mail!

    • You made me think about when email began and we’d be so excited to get something from someone. Oh my – those days are over! It’s gotten totally nuts – and yes – the personal stuff is tricky too. It’s funny, because now, people hardly ever pick up the phone!

  3. Great post. Although email is not my big problem, the subject speak to simply being overwhelmed by what technology plops in front of us constantly. My big problem is getting distracted by online tasks & interactions & feeling overwhelmed.

    But coincidentally, I am starting a new system today. Checking social media once an hour, and listing daily & weekly goals. I feel better already!

  4. Good tips Kris and always good to see you in-control. :) Cherry

  5. Lisa says:

    I wish I could break the habit of chatting in email but it’s my main source of talking to friends and family. Mostly because I despise talking on the phone!

  6. Great tips! I fret about my inbox all the time too. I finally got it down to about 100 emails the other day but I just can’t seem to get it down to zero. I think I have to stop treating my inbox as a “to do” list… Anyway, thanks for the tips, I will try some of them!
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