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Annette Quinn Stop struggling from email overload

What was life like back in the days before email was invented? I remember! It wasn’t quite as easy but we managed. We got through the day and communicated effectively by phoning people, meeting them for a coffee and a chat and by sending memos.

The introduction of email was wonderful! I could email a senior manager, with the information I had to give, rather than phone it though, and run the risk of catching them in a bad mood! I could email agendas and minutes and ask for information from other colleagues. But somewhere in the past 20 years, it has become our master.

On courses, delegates like to moan about how many emails they have to read before they get to work, how many come in throughout the day and the stress of the inbox post-holiday. Seemingly the answer to every question asked in the workplace is “put it on an email”

It is over used in the workplace and as you may remember, it was one of the time thieves so is something we need to manage. Like all the time management techniques, you use what works for you.

Writing emails

Most of the time spent on an email is writing it! So work on effective email habits.

  • Be clear about what you want to sayEmail Overload
  • Be concise. There is no need for the preamble of “hope all is well with you” “hope you had a great weekend” etc.  Emails can be shorter and sharper.
  • Make it relevant. The person receiving it, needs to know why they are getting it. If you can’t make it relevant to them, then why are you sending it?
  • Make it actionable. State what it is you want from the receiver of the email. If it’s for information only, put that in the subject box. Add “FYI” at the beginning of the subject line; end with NRN. Many emails you send are just for informational purposes and don’t require a response. Let your recipient know that in the subject line by beginning with “FYI” and ending with “NRN” (no response needed). Example: “FYI: Latest company report. NRN”
  • Use CC with discretion. Every person you add to an email thread is just another reply waiting to happen. Avoid needless emails by only including people who absolutely need to be in the thread. If you receive email you are CC’d into and think you shouldn’t be, then ask to be removed from the list
  • Try to include a non-response default action. When you write an email with a question, set up the question so that there’s a default action that requires no response from your recipient. For example, when you’re planning an event, you can phrase your email like this: “I’m going to schedule the conference room for Tuesday at 3PM. If I don’t hear back from you by tomorrow, I’ll assume that’s fine.” If the person doesn’t have a problem with it, you won’t get a response.
  • Don’t send emails. The simplest solution to the Email Overload is to not send email unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Filter priority messages

I doubt every email you receive is important and urgent, so filter out the important ones. They should be your priority.

Don’t check it too often

  • Don’t be a slave to the ‘ping’. Going into email every time you get a notification will impact on your time management.
  • Check your email every 30 minutes at most. If you think of an email you need to send while working on something else, make a note of it then do all of your email writing and reading at the same time
  • Don’t ever, ever, check your emails first thing! If you do, then your day will be influenced by other people’s problems and emergencies. Wait until you have been in the office for at least an hour, doing what you have planned to do. If something is really important and urgent, they will phone. Eventually, others will know that you don’t check until, say 10.00, and leave you in peace until then!

Respond in a timely manner

We all like to respond straight away, but that will just cause interruptions to your productivity.

  • Aim to answer within 2 hours of arrival
  • If you do it instantly, then people always expect you to answer instantly

Keep it in control on holiday

The dreaded in box, post-holiday! If you apply the previous points, the amount of email you receive should automatically drop anyway, however, there are additional measures you can take.

  • Let everyone know you’ll be gone at least a week in advance
  • Set up an email response saying you are out of the office and when you are back
  • When you come back, start reading at the most recent. With luck, anything more than 5 days old will be irrelevant

Get your email box to an empty box

The way best way to get to an empty in box is to ensure that you

  • Act on the email. Follow up what is needed
  • Archive it. Have effective and efficient folders. You don’t want to waste time looking through folders to find old emails, so having an effective system is a great time saver
  • Hold only the emails that still require action

It’s amazing how you feel when your inbox is empty!! But again, like all time management techniques this takes discipline.

Want to know more about how we can help your people remove time thieves and become more efficient? Contact us now.

Ready to start improving your Time Management? Download our template time management log here. 


Annette Quinn, Performance Management Facilitator

In my series of blogs I will be taking a look at performance management, in particular Time Management, and providing tips on how to develop your skills.

Follow @BrayLearning

Copyright © 2015 Bray Leino Learning

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