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Strategies for dealing with Email overload

There’s a flurry of articles today about email overload, and I read a few prompted by a tweet from ChiefTech.  I fancied a break so I thought I would jot down my strategies for dealing with Email, which right now mean I DON’T suffer from Email overload.

Setting the scene:

  1. First off, I don’t find Email to be the root problem,  instead I lay the blame more on email clients.  I find that the RSS post scanning, reading, flagging, sharing, and actioning experience in FeedDemon to be far superior to the equivalent in Lotus Notes.
  2. If anything I find I suffer much more from RSS overload than Email overload, but RSS readers are designed from the get go to help people cope

Getting back to email:

  1. I scan read every email that arrives each day
  2. By the end of the day I always trim my inbox to about 15 emails, these are all emails that require an action, essentially these 15 emails are my to do list for the next day or so.  15 emails fit on my laptop screen with the preview pane open, so I can scan them all with a single glance to choose my next action
  3. I email myself to do items, often from my Blackberry so I have only one place for to do items.  If I have more than 15 to do items I know from experience that I will never get around to them, so I tend to be pretty ruthless.   I keep a list of future projects that I’m not currently actioning separately
  4. I colour code emails from key people and key customers so I can see at a glance things that need special attention
  5. I create rules which move large volume email into folders so that they don’t clutter the inbox, and can be easily scanned and block deleted.  These tend to be subscriptions to lists or automated notifications.  I sometimes prefer this to RSS feeds, depending on the follow on action required.
  6. I redirect emails to RSS where I can,  however for RSS feeds that must be read or that have a high importance, but low traffic I prefer to get the update as an email
  7. For anything I need to read while mobile, I like it as email on my Blackberry
  8. I don’t use many folders.  Most emails get filed under admin, long term file, short term file and projects.  For projects with high levels of email I sometimes create a folder, but it’s rare that I access it.
  9. I almost always find emails by going into “all documents” and sorting by the name of the person who emailed me, or who I emailed.  My Brain works better by associating with people than projects.
  10. I often turn emails into calendar items, but almost never into to do items
  11. I do most of my email processing, deleting, filing, forwarding etc on my Blackberry.
  12. Once I have replied to or forwarded an email, I delete it.  I find it much easier to find it again in my sent folder, which I keep a full archive of.

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