Three steps to end email overload

Most people are familiar with the feelings of dread associated with an overflowing inbox, but there are ways to overcome this distraction and find focus.

One of the most common complaints we hear in business is ‘email’. Email grew on us without us realising it. Think back about ten years ago. You were receiving two to three emails a day. Email management was fun. Well it’s been a long time since I have heard the words email and fun linked together.

People are receiving around 50 emails a day. Some of my clients are receiving 200 emails per day.

Some interesting terms have been created recently:

Inboxicated – bad feeling when your inbox is exceeding the legal limit.

Spamnesia – constantly forgetting to delete junk mail resulting in a full inbox.

I remember a senior manager of an international business with 55,000 emails in his inbox, some read and some unread.

Why are we struggling with inbox management? There are many reasons for this:

– We procrastinate on emails because we allow emails to distract us. And this has a direct impact on our performance. We waste time checking the same emails several times without doing anything with it. I call this ‘multiple handling.’

– We let important requests slip and suddenly find ourselves in crisis mode.

– We end up stressed every time we look at the size of our inbox, looking at a huge to do list that we have no idea how to achieve.

Here are some simple suggestions to get on top of your email:


Check your email once, twice or three times per day. In between close your inbox. Do not check your emails. Remember, one of the key characteristics of top performers is focus. Do not allow emails to be a constant interruption.

One touch one decision - whenever you touch an email, ask yourself a simple question; How long will it take me to do it? If it’s less than 5 minutes, do it now. More than 5 minutes, decide when, diarise in your calendar and move to the next email. There is a world of difference between I will do it later (you are procrastinating) and I will do it tomorrow from 10am till 10.30am (you are making a decision).

Be ruthless

If the email will have little or no impact on your performance long term, spend very little time on it. Reserve your time for the few activities which will have a long term impact on your performance.

One touch out

As of today play a simple game. As soon as you have touched an email, you are not allowed to leave it in your inbox. You need to make a decision and move this email out of your inbox. A challenging game but life changing regarding emails.

This article is the third in a three-part series on corporate strategy, focused on increasing personal productivity. Read Part one (Making that hard-earned strategy work, November 29), Part two (Ending the mess of multi-tasking, December 7).

Cyril Peupion and his team at Primary Asset Consulting’s main focus is to increase productivity and work life balance by changing work habits. They work with executives and their team in Australia and around the world. Cyril is the author of ‘Work Smarter: Live Better’, which featured in the top 10 business books in Australia and top 100 Amazon worldwide.

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