One of my friends has 19,371 emails in his inbox. At one point he even had to go to Google.com and pay to increase the memory of his Gmail account so that he could continue his collection.
While you might not have that many emails, you likely do have too much email.
But it’s your own fault.
You are the only one to blame for your “too much email” problem.
First, you treat email like text messaging when you should treat email like faxing or writing a letter. After all, when you send someone a fax, they don’t fax you back a thank you. And you don’t fax them back a message saying, “No Problem.”
With faxing, or letter writing, there is no vicious cycle of time-wasting two-word correspondence. Yet you do it over and over again every day with email, and that’s one reason why your inbox is jammed.
You can end that right now with four letters: NNTR
That means: No Need To Reply
Insert those four letters (with a definition the first time you do it) into your emails when replying to a colleague’s question. You’ll cut your email volume by a minimum of 25%.
In addition, add a quick line to your email signature under your name that states, “In an effort to reduce email volume, please only reply if necessary.” You can easily delete this line if the situation is not appropriate. Otherwise, leave it in there and spread the message that you don’t require unnecessary replies.
The second mistake you are making that results in too many emails is that you send too many emails. Since eliminating my access to the Internet at home, I’ve developed the habit of saving up all correspondence for a particular individual and sending one itemized email per day to that person.
For example, if I want my assistant to update a blog, contact an affiliate, or send off a job to a ghostwriter on Elance, I’ll put all of these tasks into one email that I’ll send at the beginning or end of the day. In turn, she sends me just one itemized update each day at 5pm on all the projects she is doing.
And when you do reply to someone’s email, make sure you change the subject line to reflect the content of the email. This will allow you to better find the email from your files when the day comes – and you know it will – when you absolutely, positively, MUST find that email in a hurry.
(Speaking of emergencies, when something important comes up in my business, we use this thing called a “phone.” See if your IT department has access to this cutting edge technology.)
If the itemized, single-message approach strikes you as too difficult to implement right now, then at least use the old “count-to-ten” rule before sending that email. That’s the beauty of medium. You actually have time to think before you hit the send button.
Remember, if you want to CONTROL YOUR EMAIL PROBLEM, then email should not be treated as a conversation. Stop replying to things that don’t need a reply.
Here’s one more tip on how to cut back on your email production. Begin by taking a look at how many emails you send per day. Now starting tomorrow, you must limit yourself to 25% of today’s email production.
For example, let’s say you sent forty emails today. That means tomorrow you get to send ten emails. Every email you send above ten costs $1 and you’ll deposit that dollar into a jar. At the end of the week you can burn it, flush it, or give it away to charity. It doesn’t matter. But it’s gone.
That will teach you to treat email with the respect it deserves.
The third reason you have too much email is because you ASK for it (as well as too many Twitter and Facebook messages).
Unsubscribe from (almost) everything.
I get the following select business and financial email newsletters and believe they are worthwhile and I limit myself exclusively to this list:
a) Ryan Deiss (Reading time: 15 seconds)
b) Bedros Keuilian (Reading time: 30 seconds)
c) Palm Beach Letter (Reading time: 1 minute)
d) SovereignMan.com (Reading time: 1 minute)
e) BillBonnersDiary.com (Reading time: 2 minutes)
Everything else is not worth it, in my opinion.
Give yourself 5 minutes per day to read email newsletters and make sure you BATCH the reading time. That means you save them all for lunchtime or 5pm.
That’s all the time you get.
Unsubscribe from everything else, and just as importantly, un-follow and un-friend everyone on FB and Twitter who isn’t someone you wake up wanting to hear from EVERY DAY.
If you have trouble letting go, just ask yourself, “How do I really want to spend my life?”
Is it answering email from strangers?
Is it reading yet another email newsletter?
Or is playing with your children and enjoying your family time?
Do your work and then cut off your email time.
Remember that every wasted minute you spend in your inbox is a minute stolen from the limited time your kids will be kids.
Something has to give.
It’s your choice. Don’t become a slave to work email. And needless to say, all of these recommendations apply to your personal email usage as well.
The bottom line is this…
Your inbox is your responsibility. If you get too much email then you simply haven’t set up the right systems to protect your time. Email is not a conversation tool, and when you can change your perspective on how email – and all online messaging should work – you’ll save yourself precious time and dramatically reduce your work-related stress levels.
Treat email – and the people’s time you are emailing – with respect and you’ll have less email to deal with.
Good luck, and remember, count to ten before hitting send.
Helping you create your Perfect Day,
PS – Use the 3 ancient secrets…
… to create your perfect day.