By Rick Broida and Dave Johnson
Overwhelmed by e-mail? Of course you are; everyone is. I've never met someone who said, "Gee, I sure wish I got more mail!" So how can you downsize the soul-crushing, productivity-sapping, always-overflowing nightmare that is your inbox?
Three words: less is more. In Email Etiquette for the Super-Busy, webzine The 99 Percent suggests 10 best practices for inbox reduction, most of which involve keeping things clear, concise, and efficient. Here are two I wish every person on the planet would remember:
8. Don't send "Thanks!" emails.
If you don't have anything substantive and/or actionable to say, don't send the email. Refraining from sending the one-word "Thanks!" email is tough, because it can feel ungrateful. But at this juncture, we're all probably more grateful for one less email.
10. Never "reply all" (unless you absolutely must).
If you've received an email sent to a large group of people, do your best to avoid replying to all when you respond. If that person was qualified to send the email, typically they can be relied on to be the point person who collates the responses. Keep in mind: If using the "reply all" feature really seems necessary, you are probably having a conversation that would be better (and more efficiently) had face-to-face.
I'm also a big fan of #9: "Never send an angry or contentious email." While that might not seem to have anything to do with reducing e-mail volume, consider the flurry of heated back-and-forth responses that inevitably follows.
Indeed, there's a lot of good advice here, and incorporating some or all of it should help stem the e-mail tide. Once that starts to happen, you might have an easier time deferring e-mail until later in the day (which I've found great for making mornings more productive).
Have you found any miracle cures for inbox overload? If so, share 'em in the comments! In the meantime, check out these related stories:
- Gmail Priority Inbox: 5 Ways to Make It Better
- Another Three-Pronged Approach to Uncluttering Your Inbox
- How to Overcome a Productivity Roadblock
A technology writer for more than 15 years, Rick Broida is a regular contributor to CNET, Popular Science and Wired. He's also the author of numerous books, including How to Do Everything with Your Zune.