Managing E-mail Overload

We all get too many e-mails. Here's how not to let them take over your life  

Credit: Flickr/baking_in_pearls

Overwhelmed by e-mail? You’re not alone

“Are you overwhelmed by e-mail?”

I saw this notice taped to a pole recently, along with an invitation to participate in a research study to address the problem. The funny part? The only way to reply was, you guessed it, by e-mail.

Readers of this blog are used to my complaints about excessive e-mail. Yesterday I returned home from a brief stint away from e-mail with 76 new messages to hack through, and I know I’m not alone.

Much of this is my own fault. I can’t resist signing up for the deal of the day at multiple sites. Nor do I have the heart to axe chain e-mails from the associations to which I belong, not to mention the regular updates from my favourite hair salon, clothing store and housewares shop that, while mostly useless, do bring the occasional freebie. But there are ways to mend mine.

Tips for Taming E-mail

Discover the power of folders. Mail from a specific source – a volunteer organization where you do a shift, or a political group – can be funneled directly into them, clearing up your inbox. The only hard part: you must remember to check them on a regular basis.
  • Discourage the joke of the day. If you have an acquaintance who likes to send those joke e-mails, try to gently curb his enthusiasm by not replying. Ditto for those heartfelt angel messages forwarded by your female friends.
  • Treat e-mail like paper. Don’t move on until you’ve deleted or filed it. We’ve all left an e-mail in our inbox, intending to come back to it a second time, but as you probably know good intentions are as nothing in the e-mail flood.
  • Don’t check it so darn often! To keep e-mail from invading your life, set limits such as checking only once a day, using only one device, or honouring family or personal time with a computer-free day.
  • Use the phone or, gasp, snail mail. The former allows you to make plans with one or two exchanges instead of six; the latter provides breathing room for your chatty letter to be savoured, not lost in the onslaught.

As a last resort, some frustrated users have declared e-mail bankruptcy.