Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Coping With Email Overload

My life has taken an unexpected detour over the past couple of weeks. In fact this detour is more of a sharp swerve around a hairpin bend on two wheels, however, as I’m always up for a challenge, I am trying to take everything in my stride.

The house is in need of a damn good clean, and the ironing pile is so high I think I spotted a mountain goat teetering on the top.  As well as this, my inbox is bulging at its electronic seams.

My kids have been incredibly helpful and have occasionally thrown the vacuum around in a haphazard motion.  They have also flicked the yellow duster lightly over the furniture – regardless of if it was wooden or not – they are ‘helping’ I must not complain!

Doing anything at the moment is exhausting. Unfortunately, my brain is still ticking over at two hundred miles an hour.  Frustration has set in and yet I am still able to find suitable ways to procrastinate. 

I mentioned my inbox.  I won’t embarrass myself by telling you how many emails I have in there, but I will tell you that Kate was probably expecting baby number one when I last sorted my folders.

Does anyone else break out in a cold sweat when they think about the overwhelming task of organising emails?  I potter around on Facebook, I might add a Pin or two to my Pinterest account, and then I’ll finish off with a quick Twitter roundup, all of this I do on my laptop.  The ‘Email’ icon is right next to the ‘Internet’ icon on my home screen, yet I still fail to swish the mouse an inch to the left.

When I started to wake up in the middle of the night after dreaming about drowning in a sea of little white envelopes, I realised it might be time to set myself free.  It’s time to organise my brain and dump all the overwhelming drainage that is bringing me down – and now, invading my sleep.

Armed with a large mug of tea and a hobnob (no other biscuit is up to this challenge), I clicked the ‘Email’ icon and set about de-cluttering my inbox.  It took me just over an hour to sort out my folders, respond to queries and file the emails appropriately.  By the end, I was feeling elated.  The relief that this task was behind me filled me with a huge sense of calm.  My shoulders returned to their original position – instead of being up by my ears – my jaw began to unclench and I started to feel that smug pride sweep over me. 

I made a vow never to let my emails overload again.  I made another vow to organise one area of my life every day for the next month.  Tomorrow I’m starting on the cupboard under the sink – I love my rock n roll lifestyle!

Coping With Email Overload:
  • Admit you have a problem!
  • Allocate an hour to de-clutter your inbox
  • Use the 'manage folders' tool and sort your mail appropriately - it will make finding something so much easier.
  • Set up an auto-responder if this helps - you can set it to tell the recipient that you will reply within a day/week etc.
  • Only check your messages once or twice and day and sort/delegate them as soon as you can.
  • Remember that feeling of smug pride and relaxed shoulders so you don't get in such a mess again!

What’s your favourite organisational tip to rid yourself of overloaded emails, or other day-to-day issues?

Road image via Wikapedia
Feet in Bed Image via FrameAngel at freedigitalphotos.net


  1. I do mine like this - each morning I do a quick skim down and delete all the blog posts I will never, realistically, find time to read. The junk is all sorted into junk automatically. That leaves me with about 10-15, usually. Anything I don't want to answer just yet goes into 'to answer'. Sorted!

    1. I love it! Simple and effective. Thank you for sharing, I am stupidly excited about opening my inbox now ;-)

    2. Of course, one could always"unsubscribe" from all the blog posts you aren't going to read, then the inbox would be even less cluttered.

    3. That's a very sensible idea :-)

  2. Great post Shelley. That feeling of relief when you've tackled something that's been overwhelming you for ages is fantastic. I think it's the phrase 'armed with a mug of tea and a hobnob' that's so helpful - it IS like going into battle so anything like that helps. The silly thing is it never actually takes you as long as you think it will does it. Keep your inspirational posts coming, they are well - er - inspiring! :-)

    1. Thanks Sue. You are so right - it never does take that long, it's just the thought of doing it that weighs you down. I feel the same about exercise! I wonder if a hobnob would help with that? ;-)

  3. It isn't so much admitting you have a problem (everyone knows they do), it's realizing that you can do something about it, that Inbox overflow isn't an act of God!

    My number one advice is always to set one or two fixed time slots in the day for processing email in a batch, and never check for new email between those slots; I see you figured that out already. Another is my "Five weeks folder" idea, which you can see (with some other tips) at http://bit.ly/NZ-Tips . Happy decluttering!

  4. Shelly,
    Found your posting through a google search I run each week looking for articles on Email Overload.
    Your challenges are real and your ideas are all good.
    I actually did my doctoral dissertation on Email Overload and have put together a small web site where I am trying to provide some resources, ideas, and approaches to help people better manage their inbox. Feel free to check it out and some of the tips I have on it:
    Remember, an inbox is just other people's "to dos" - you don't need to rule your life by it - you just need to know how to find the important stuff, learn to filter out the noise, and use a system to keep things organized.
    Good luck and Best Regards,
    Dr. Einstein

    1. Thank you for taking the time to share Michael. Your site is great - I will be popping over regularly for tips.