WorkHacks to Amp Up Your Week #1: 19 best ways to handle email overwhelm
This is the month for changing how you get things done.
This is the week for getting charged up on how to do it.
This is the blog to show you how.
Today? The 19 best ways to handle email overwhelm
(Just pick one to work on, OK? I know you can’t implement all of these. So imagine a matrix that had as one axis “likelihood of doing it” and another “size of impact”. What’s the action in the top right hand box?)
Admit it’s costing you
1. Start by not confusing “doing email” with “doing the real work”. It’s no great boast that you’ve worked your way back down to the mailroom. (And how long are you spending there? Two hours a day at least I’d bet.)
2. Know that by starting the day doing your email (41% of us, according to a 2005 survey) you’re using the high-quality fuel in your brain for what’s mostly an exceedingly mundane task. Jim Collins doesn’t look at electronic input until after. (This is a piece of advice I’m singularly unable to follow … but it’s still good advice.)
3. Realize that “staying on top of my email” in a Sisyphean task of hopelessness. It’s like digging a hole in the beach by the ocean. No matter how fast you scoop, water keeps coming in. The good news in that is that “freedom,” so says the bard “is when there’s nothing left to lose.”
4. Decide to actually do something about email. You’ll likely never conquer it, but the lesser of two evils is still the lesser of two evils.
Improve the output
5. 80% of email gets deleted within 3 seconds. So if you have to send email, make it consumable in 3 seconds.
6. Start by making your subject line awesome. Useful. Compelling. Spend 37.4% of your time on this.
7. Then keep your emails to three sentences.
8. If action is required, but it clear that actions is required.
- What needs to be done? (Action up front)
- By when? (Deadline)
- How will you let me know? (How will you communicate competed?)
9. Stop being polite. Stop sending emails saying “thanks” or “got it’.
10. Don’t Reply All. Don’t BCC. Too much and too secret.
11. Don’t send the email.
Control the input
12. Create a code of email conduct with your 50 most regular communicants. They’ll be as happy as you are. When, how long, etiquette for replies, TLAs you will use, etc
14. Getting copied on CYA emails once? Shame on them. Getting copied on CYA emails twice? Shame on you.
15. Start asking “Why are you sending this to me? Or more bluntly, “I don’t need to see this. Stop it.”
16. Refuse to accept emails while you’re on vacation. Send an auto reply that tells people you will delete all emails unread when you’re back, so if it’s important enough send me the email on [insert date of return].
17. Unsubscribe, unsubscribe, unsubscribe. (Except for my newsletter and blog feed of course.)
18. Delete anything more than 30 days old that’s in your inbox. Or archive it. Or turn it into an action item.
19. Declare email bankruptcy and just delete everything. Or at least, move everything into a folder called “The folder formerly known as InBox” and start afresh.
So there are so ways for battling the email dragon. What other weapons do you have in your arsenal? And which ones do you actually use?
By the way – if you’ve enjoyed this post, you’ll love the Great Work Provocations, a nifty Monday – Friday email series.