Too Much Email

No stronger love/hate relationship exists in the business world than between us and our email. We love the ability to communicate quickly. We love how we can sign up for enticing offers with a single click. We love how we can, with the touch of the “send” key, transfer a responsibility to someone else.

We hate email because every time we check it, someone is adding to our already-crowded schedule. Our best-laid plans for the day fall prey to the next ding of the Inbox. Some people feel compelled to live in that email Inbox, one that grows with each passing day. Some of us say we simply get too much email.

Head It Off at the Pass

Part of the problem is the email which you get because you asked for it. You downloaded a get-rich-quick article in exchange for joining someone’s email list. Those updates seemed like a good idea at the time. Now, your Inbox is overflowing with commercial advertisements all aimed at making your wallet slimmer. The problem of too much email is your own fault.

It’s time to fight back. At the bottom of every legitimate newsletter or promotion will be an “unsubscribe” option. It’s the law. Start getting ruthless with things you know you are never going to read. Take a second to unsubscribe and begin a path towards taking control.

Are you still getting emails about that poor Nigerian princess? Those are spam, and while they are unlawful, tracking down their origin is an exercise in futility. You have better uses for your time.

I use Gmail. It’s free. I can access it from anywhere. It checks all of my email accounts and puts the legitimate email in one place. One of the nice features is that it has a very good spam filter. Every now and then, I look in the spam folder just to see if anything good has been trapped by mistake. It happens, but it’s rare. What I do see is all of the junk which never finds its way to my Inbox. As for what Gmail places in the “Important” section, well, it’s never too much email.

Send the Good Stuff to the Right Place

When I meet with busy professionals, overwhelmed with email, they complain of those messages which never move. Those messages sit day after day, week after week. They sit there for one of three reasons:

  • Some are reminders of things to do.
  • Some are reminders of places you need to be.
  • Some embed good reference information.

All are useful; they are simply in the wrong place.

One of the reasons I like digital to-do lists is that the good ones interface with your email program. Over a decade ago, I was dragging emails to Outlook’s “Task” button, where the program would automatically create a new task, and the entire body of the email message would be included in the note section.

Today, I use a cloud-based to-do list. Forwarding an email to a special address puts that email on the to-do list.

As for emails which remind us of places we need to be, similar techniques are available. Outlook users can “drag & drop” an email onto the “Calendar” button. Outlook creates a new appointment and includes the entire body of the email message in the note section of the appointment. In Gmail, clicking on the “More” tab and selecting “Create Event” accomplishes the same end.

Emails often bring helpful reference information, but email is a terrible place to store those reference items. Outlook users can “drag & drop” emails to the “Notes” button, and then edit the note as needed. I use Evernote to store reference information. Enter “Evernote” into the search window of this blog, or select “Evernote” from the list of categories, and you will see other posts where I have talked about setting up Evernote and the notebook you need. Evernote supplies me with a special email address to which I can forward messages. Forwarding a message to that address adds it to Evernote.

With calendar information on the calendar, to-dos on the to-do list, and reference information sent to Evernote, I can use one of my favorite keys, the one marked ‘Delete.’ 

One less email clutters my Inbox. The solution for “too much email”! At the end of the day, the Inbox is empty. It can happen for you.

What’s your biggest email headache? Let me know in the comments.