Drowning in Email? 5 Lifesaving Tips

I love email. I love that I can communicate information anytime of day or night. I love that it provides a CYA paper trail. I love that I can use my email in-box as a task management tool. If an email comes my way that requires action, it stays in my in-box until it’s handled and then I either delete or move to an offline folder. Unfortunately, as I type, I have well over 307 emails sitting in my in-box, leaving me frantically treading water.

If you break it down, the composition of those emails looks something like this:
48 from team members that require quick action
35 from clients that require project starts
33 from clients or team members that require thoughtful work before replying
15 I could delegate with a little direction
29 that are ridiculous reply-all responses that were unnecessary
14 newsletters I’ve subscribed to but don’t have time to read beyond the headlines
66 that are valuable updates but can be moved to offline folders
29 sales attempts from existing relationships
16 cold sales attempts from people or businesses I’ve never heard of
14 reminders to respond to previous emails
5 random compilations of cute cats or inspirational messages
3 pleas to take some dead guy’s money just by providing my bank account information

My average email consumption speed is 40 per hour, so you can do the math on what it would take to get to single digits in my email in-box. It’s a daunting task to keep my head above water, and I know I’m not alone in this email-drowning sensation.

So for 2014, it’s time to put some lifesaving strategies in place. Inspired by a recent article in the Huffington Post, I’ve crafted my own lifesaving tips that I’m happy to share:

1. Be fast with the delete button. You know you don’t care or don’t have time, so just delete.
2. Set preferences to color code priority emails. For me, clients are the utmost importance, so properly designated emails show up highlighted in my in-box to quickly grab my attention.
3. Don’t reply all unless it’s critical. If you can remove one or most of the cc’d email addresses when you respond, please do. They are probably drowning, too.
4. Use smart subject lines. Every client at JP has a 3 or 4-letter client code, so I try to start all subject lines with the client code for faster searching and foldering of emails.
5. Set aside chunks of reply time. Rather than jumping to respond every time an email notification pops on your screen, set aside 20-30 minute chunks of quiet time throughout the day to tackle email. Close your door or put in headphones and get to it.

I’d invite you to email me your thoughts about this blog, but, well, I might be too fast with the delete button.

Jane Olvera Quebe, President

4 thoughts on “Drowning in Email? 5 Lifesaving Tips”

  • This update speaks directly to me. I cannot believe how many times I just think oh my God, I cannot possibly read and respond to all of these emails at a prompt time.

    I appreciate the tips!

  • You nailed it Jane! One more tip- take a few seconds to “unsubscribe” to the newsletters you really do not want.It can greatly reduce those nuisance messages!

  • Color coding is so important and a trait I am, just recently, making into habit. Most of my e-mails that come from the “reply all” will now meet their demise with the delete button! buh-ha-ha!!! At least those that are not important, (insert camel yelling out, “WHAT DAY IS IT?”)

    Good tips!

  • Enough can’t be said about the “reply to all” button. I get at least 75 emails during the day that I really REALLY didn’t need or care to see, typically conversations held by other two that apparently I was chosen to be witness to. Please… for the sanity of all, we need to be selective with the “reply to all”

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