Five Simple Steps to Easy Email Management

This morning, I was invited to talk about email management on’s morning show (I’ll update this post with a link/embed of the video if it appears).

As prep, they sent me this little fact – the average inbox of a corporate worker receives about 100 emails per day. Of those 100 emails, only 42% are important. Wow. A couple years ago I kept track of my email for a day, and received about 130 emails. I think I get more now!

So – what can you do to conquer email overload?

Here are five simple steps to email management:

  1. Remember the goal. It’s not getting rid of email, having Inbox Zero, etc. Your goal with email is to manage your job/life, get your work done, plan things, etc.
  2. Don’t check email every 5 minutes! Some people (myself included) can easily handle having email up constantly, getting email alerts, etc. And some people can’t. Those reminders interrupt their work, their train of thought, etc. Or it simple distracts them and keeps them from the task at hand. If that’s the case, maybe schedule specific chunks of time for email processing – 2-4 times a day, once an hour, or whatever works with your workflow. Adjust as needed.
  3. Don’t read email more than once! Actually do something with it the first time you read it. Then see #4…
  4. Use the Four D’s of Decision Making with your email inbox:
    1. Delete it. Is it informational, spam, an email newsletter, a reminder, etc? Read it then delete it. Or just delete it.
    2. Do it (if it takes less than 2 minutes). Does this email need a quick reply? Does someone need a bit of info from you? If you can do it fast, go ahead. Then delete that email!
    3. Delegate it. Should someone else do this? Send it on. Then delete it.
    4. Defer it (put it on your to-do list or turn it into an appointment). If the response is going to take longer than 2 minutes, put it on your task list as an action item, schedule a meeting, etc – whatever is needed. Then go to #5…
  5. Make some handy next action reminder folders. For example, in my work email I create project folders for emails on individual projects. I also have a Waiting For folder for replies or more info that I’m waiting on. Then I check those folders every week or so as a reminder. The idea here is that the email is moved out of your inbox.

How do you handle your email? Have any tips? Please share them in the comments!

email photo by alykat

Dealing with Email

A couple weeks ago, I was wondering how much email I received and dealt with in a day. So I counted, and here’s what I ended up with – two email accounts, one day:

Gmail account:

  • 75 emails received
  • 13 emails already in my inbox
  • What were they?
    • 7 twitter requests
    • 6 things I needed to know
    • 2 replies to something I had sent the day before
    • 7 things I had to do or respond to
    • the rest was junk I deleted (discussion list things, subscription spam, etc)

During the day, I sent out 14 emails from this account, and ended up with 1 email in my inbox.

Work email account:

  • 55 emails received
  • 12 things already in my inbox
  • What were they?
    • 9 things I needed to know
    • 2 interesting things
    • 12 helpdesk emails
    • 2 discussion list messages
    • the rest was junk I deleted

During the day, I sent out 7 emails from this account, and ended up with Zero Inbox!

Total email received = 130
Emails sent by me = 21
And I think this was a SLOW email day for me!

Of course, email wasn’t the only thing I did all day long. There were meetings. There were projects I’m working on. There was at least one call to a vendor. Etc.

The point is this – I do real work via email. I’m guessing you do too. Decisions get made, projects get additional thoughts. Things I need to see get seen. Questions get answered (or asked). It really IS my In Box.

How about you? Is email an irritation you have to deal with so you can DO your “real work” … or do you see email (and the thoughts behind those emails) as part of your “real work?”