I don’t know about you, but I currently receive over 100 e-mail messages a day. Some of my colleagues get more. Some get less. Nevertheless, almost everyone I know complains about e-mail overload.
Regardless of how many messages you receive a day, my experience is that most people have a couple of thousand messages sitting in their inbox at any one time. They may have read—and reread—most of them. They may have some that are still unread.
As a result, several times a day, they sit staring at a very long, unruly list of messages. They hardly know where to begin. This results in feelings of anxiety, frustration, and, sometimes, even despair. In short, e-mail overload.
Surely, there’s got to be a better way! Fortunately, there is. It’s easier than you think, but it begins by making three commitments:
- Commit to implementing a better system. Admit it. What you are doing is not working. Or if it is working, it’s not working as well as it should. (Otherwise, you would still be reading this post.) You can’t work any harder. You are already working more than you should. What you need is a system that will allow you to work smarter. That’s what I hope to give you in this series of posts.
- Commit to emptying your inbox daily. This is the goal and, I promise, it’s a realistic one. You may have days when you get behind. You may even go for a few days. But you must commit to the goal of an empty inbox or you will never get ahead. If you haven’t experienced it in a while, an empty inbox gives you a wonderful sense of being in control.
- Commit to dealing with each message only once. The reason most people can’t get ahead of the curve, is because they keep reading the same e-mail messages over and over again. In effect, they are multiplying the number of messages they must process. They keep running the messages through the same processing loop without resolution. The secret to stopping this unproductive behavior is deciding that you will read each mail only once, then making a decision about what needs to be done. There are six and only six options, and I will discuss each of these in my next post.
By the way, in case you are wondering how many messages you actually get a day, Sue Mosher has created a simple macro in Outlook that will count your messages for you. If you want to use her macro, read the article carefully. It took me a couple of times through the article to get it right, but I now have it working.