- You look at the number of read or unread emails and ….you feel overwhelmed. Without having opened a single email.
- You have lots of good stuff in the email, but some is for today, this week, next month, or when you can save enough money for it … and don’t want to lose track of it.
- Your amount of reading, whether it’s professionally oriented sites or about hobbies/potential hobbies, clubs, is tiring.
- You can’t figure out what to get rid of. How much is enough?
- You feel scattered. You are cruising the surface of a lot of good articles but … you don’t remember much.
We used to have a limit …. but no more. The physical mailbox gave us a container. Our email inboxes are bottomless. It used to be clear what we could toss. There’s still that …. but so much fascinating content the internet has for us. How can we pass it up? It’s hard. No doubt about it.
Email Overload Strategies: Mindset Questions
- One email inbox or two? A personal decision, do you want all email flowing into the same box (one place instead of two boxes)? Or you may need separate emails, because it helps your mind keep work/home separate.
- How much is too much, for you? For me, if I have more than one screen of emails, I feel like too many loose ends are there. Almost right away, I go to the inbox and decide: “What’s the next small step” to take with each email? And, for me if an email has been sitting more than a day, then a couple of things might be happening:
- I don’t know how to answer the email. So I’ll jot down my points or talk to someone about their thoughts …and then get it done.
- If there are more than a couple of steps and I need it done soon, that email gets sent to my Trello board and prioritized.
- If it’s something for the future, i.e., I know we might buy a piano in a year and I’ve done some research, then I save that to my home Trello board under “Next Year.” Or it could be saved under “Financial Priorities for Savings.” It is where it needs to be. I can find it later by using a consistent system.
- Articles: part of the email conundrum. -BUT …. so MANY articles. Only surface level reading. Try this. What are your key interests and projects, which you will actually do something with? That’s a different category from “It’s so interesting to read about this…” (and I won’t be doing it, but it’s pretty interesting – curiosity seeking). Save those for a quiet time to truly read them.
- For your interests, you could choose one a quarter or a few a year. A limit of what your life and time can handle will help you back into some limits. Save the other topics for the next quarter. This can apply to professionally oriented sites, interests, hobbies, clubs, organizations, and such.
- Choose a topic you want to focus on for the month. If you’re going to focus on diversity, or on email tools, or on a plant-based food approach, then limit yourself, just for that month (or time period you choose) to reading articles only on that “project.” Ignore the rest. They will find you again.
- If you are nervous about getting rid of emails, there is an answer. Set up a folder with these emails and drag them in there. You can name it “I’m not sure or “Save until xyz date.” And then archive or delete after that date. This puts some time between you and the decision, so it is an easier, less anxious one to make, later on.
Email Overload Strategies: Tools & Tech
- I can share what to do, but you’re the one who needs to experiment and decide what tools feel intuitive, easy, useful. My system is detailed here, in an article titled “An Email Routine: How to Create Your Own [And a look at mine].” I use all of these strategies at work; I use only some in my personal email. My preference is to only learn one tool.
- Trello: I use the free version for work AND home projects, but I use the tool a bit more simply for home things. Whatever planner or to do list you use at work, see if you can adapt it for home projects. While you may argue that you don’t want to have a list at home, I’d say that if you don’t, you won’t do the things you want to to. There will be too many ideas and “to do’s” floating in your mind, which uses up a lot of emotional energy (round and round they go).
- To keep track, people use: notebooks, index cards, phone to do list apps (easier to share among your family and harder to lose), whiteboards, magnets in a jar with projects or to do’s written on them. Get creative; this is your personal life so don’t make it feel like work. Even if you keep the master list on a digital platform, you’ll want to print “this week’s list” so it’s visible and reminds you. Or, use your personal calendar and share it with your family.
- Your email system: There are a lot of things to do on in our email boxes, which has changed over the years, right? Some people are fans of email categories, or flagging emails or setting up folders. Jot down on paper first what your system is: what will you save, where, what topics. What is the “container” for how much you’ll keep? Would you delete an article (or read it) as you add in another? [One in-one out?] Or limit yourself to 5 or 10 per flag/category/folder. Caution: if you set up folders, and keep gathering articles without keeping up with the reading, you’re essentially creating piles, in folders. These usually carry guilt with them. Decide, just like with your things around your house what you really want to keep and why. Declutter first, on the spot.
- How to cope with constant mail from sites: Learn one new thing about your email system. For example, Most now have promotion/social/forum categories or you can make them. Learn to use filters (Outlook, gmail) to have certain emails bypass your inbox and go straight to those folders. This groups similar things, so just like putting all your books in one bookcase, you’ll see how much you have. And then you may want to get off some lists. Decluttering your email – same idea as our stuff.