Love it or hate it, e-mail is now an inevitable part of our lives! It can also become an ever-increasing annoyance. It’s easy to get burned out from email and start to suffer from e-mail overload. Here are a few tips, provided by Marsha Egan – CEO of the Egan Group Inc. , on how to manage our inboxes:
Reduce the number of times you check for new e-mail. Constantly checking for new e-mails and responding to them immediately decreases both productivity and work quality, as it takes your focus and attention away from the task at hand. Set a limit (try for less than five times) on how often you will check it each day – and ask your colleagues and managers to call if the matter is urgent.
Get out of your in-box. You don’t open your snail mail and then put it back into the mailbox, so why keep all of your e-mail in your in-box? Having all pending work staring you in the face every time you check your mail promotes procrastination – and can make you feel anxious and overwhelmed. When sorting your e-mail, place it in folders that enable you to view it when you plan your day.
Differentiate between “sorting” and “handling” e-mail.Too many people confuse these two actions. If you allow the immediacy of e-mail to tempt you into taking care of all the e-mails as you read them, you could spend all day just responding to e-mail and ignoring higher-priority tasks. If you can accomplish the e-mailed task within two minutes, do it. If not, file it in an appropriate folder to be viewed when you are planning your priorities for the day. Consider setting a regular time each day to go through the sorted e-mails and prioritize them.
Don’t let e-mail control you. Check your e-mail on your own time, and don’t let the e-mail “ding” divert your focus from the important task you might already be working on. It will still be there when you finish what you’re doing.
Marsha Egan is CEO of the Egan Group Inc. and a leading authority on e-mail productivity. For more strategies, subscribe to her biweekly e-newsletter at