- What Is Email Overload?
- Why Getting Too Many Emails Is Such a Problem
- 10 Steps to Solve Your Email Overload Problem Once and For All
If you’re getting too much email at work, you’re in good company. Lots of people dread opening their email Monday morning after a couple of days off and being completely overloaded. A growing pile of unread messages may even be keeping you up at night.
The amount of email flooding into inboxes these days is truly insane. Fortunately, you don’t need to drive yourself crazy trying to stay on top of your messages.
There are simple steps you can take if you’re getting too much email at work. Here’s what to know about email overload and how to fix it.
The problem of getting too much email at work is so common that it has its own technical term — email overload. When you’re overloaded with something, there’s just too much of it to handle and that’s the case when it comes to email overload.
When you’re suffering from email overload, it means that there isn’t enough time in the day to deal with every message coming into your inbox. Email overload can also refer to the anxiety or dread you feel thinking about wading through your overflowing inbox.
If you’ve ever had sleepless nights where you’re worried about customer service complaints, questions that go unanswered or endless follow-up emails, there’s a good chance you’re experiencing email overload.
It probably won’t surprise you that email overload is a common problem for professionals working in many different industries. Everyone’s inbox is full of hundreds of back-and-forth communications, newsletters, email alerts, spam — you name it.
But while email overload is common, it’s not something you want to ignore. Getting too many emails can really cause you problems. If you don’t handle your email overload, you might experience:
- Lost Productivity – Email overload often leads to lost productivity. The few seconds it takes to open and delete unnecessary emails can really add up. One study put the cost at $1,641 per employee per year. All that time spent on email is time you can’t spend meeting with new clients, working on projects, meeting sales goals, or growing a business.
- Poor Focus – Too much email can also affect your focus. Every time a notification dings, it can distract you from what you’re doing, often for longer than you think. After a major distraction, it can take almost 30 minutes to fully regain your focus. With a typical worker getting about 126 emails every day, it’s easy for these distractions to add up.
- Work Mistakes – An overflowing inbox can lead to more mistakes. Files get lost, tasks get skipped over and emails go unanswered. Little mistakes like these lead to inefficiencies across a business that can add up, resulting in a dent in revenue of up to 20–30%. Excess email only makes the problem worse.
- Workplace Friction – Email overload can lead to friction with clients and coworkers. If you can’t get through your inbox, you may miss important memos, questions and inquiries that are time sensitive. Modern expectations for prompt replies are high, ranging from getting a response in less than 10 minutes to hearing back within two to four hours, depending on the sender. Slow replies end up being a major source of frustration.
- Increased Stress – Getting too many emails can also cause excess stress and lead to burnout. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re behind, unable to catch up or meet your expectations. One study found email overload led to higher psychological strain and negative emotions and a recent report said 76% of workers are experiencing burnout. The main takeaway: email overload is a real problem that can affect not only your career but also your health.
Email overload is common and it’s definitely a problem, but not one you can’t recover from. If you have caught yourself saying there are just too many emails in my inbox, these 10 email overload solutions can help.
The first step to solving email overload is to admit you have a problem. The next step is setting aside some time so you can get caught up.
Block out a couple hours on your calendar where all you focus on is email. Make sure to follow a process like this one for better efficiency.
Once you’re caught up, you can use these new strategies to keep from getting overloaded again.
Catching up works when you’re behind by a few hundred messages, but for a few thousand, it may be better to cut your losses, declare email bankruptcy and start fresh.
Archive the oldest messages and send out a note to your most important contacts letting them know you’ve had some email issues and to contact you if they’re still waiting on something.
While not an ideal solution, it solves the backlog and lets you focus on current work.
To stem the tide of excess messages flooding your inbox, you need to reduce the amount of incoming mail. Otherwise, you may end up overloaded again in a few days.
Make unsubscribing from lists a regular habit, consider consolidating mailing list emails with a tool like unroll.me, and use Outlook or Gmail filters to help unclog your inbox.
Less incoming mail will help you avoid a repeat of too many emails flooding in.
Spam is one of the major sources of email overload. Getting too many spam emails is going to clog your inbox and make it hard to get work done.
Outlook and Gmail both have built-in spam filters. Adjust the settings for when you’re getting:
Getting junk mail out of your inbox will solve a lot of your email overload.
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5. Organize Your Inbox
Email problems can be a matter of too much disorder as well as too many emails. Organizing your inbox will help you clear out existing mail and make it easier to maintain an orderly inbox.
Use your email program’s built-in customizations, filters, labels and folders to sort your mail. You can organize emails in Gmail and Outlook automatically using this method.
Once set up, these inbox automations will help you maximize your productivity.
Not every message needs a response. When you send one-word replies, your inbox is more likely to be overwhelmed by similar responses.
Think about recipients before hitting send, learn when not to respond, and help cut down on work emails with weekly meetings or a messaging app.
Learning to send less email can cut down on the time you spend on your messages and also reduce the amount of mail you’re getting.
Follow To, CC and BCC email etiquette rules to cut down even more on unnecessary conversation threads that can clog your inbox.
Limit use of CC to keeping the most necessary recipients in the loop and use BCC to send mass emails or status updates that keep those recipients anonymous.
Following CC and BCC etiquette correctly helps let recipients know they don’t need to respond, cutting down on replies that come into your inbox.
Setting limits on the time you spend on email can actually help you receive less email, regain your focus and worry less about being overwhelmed.
Turn off alerts and notifications for incoming email, close your email program when you’re not working on it, and know when to unplug, so that you don’t stress about messages after hours.
Sticking to set times to manage your inbox is a proven strategy for conquering email overload.
Using a process like Inbox Zero is one of the best ways to manage your email overload and clear out your inbox. The method is about taking care of your inbox and excess email stress.
Process your email in batches during a couple of set times per day where you will delete, delegate, respond, defer or do each item as you come to it.
Inbox Zero is a focused no-nonsense way to quickly clean out an inbox with too many emails.
Dealing with email overload by hand can be tough when you’re receiving hundreds of messages a day. It can help to automate parts of the process with an email productivity app like Folio.
Get the Folio email add-on for you Gmail or Outlook inbox and let its smart AI-powered algorithms take care of organizing your email for a better workflow.
Automating with Folio can cut 3–5 hours off the time you spend on email every week, helping to make sure you don’t have too many emails crowding your inbox.
Getting too much email at work is a common problem, but it’s definitely fixable and these email overload solutions will help clean out your inbox.
Click here to try Folio today and say goodbye to your email overload problems.
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