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How To Reduce The Quantity Of Incoming Email

 e mail marketing software, online social networking, world wide web, blog hosting services, anti spam techniques, voice mail, e mail, incoming email, web 2.0, business communication, voicemail, reduce, twitter, productivity, ideas, incoming, quantities, boxes, quantity, sacrifice, fewer It may sound counter-intuitive to desire fewer incoming email messages.  If you are out of work or trying to grow a business, email is one of those gates by which important opportunities may enter.  So this isn’t about filtering out the good stuff, it’s about optimizing your ability to find it and act on it.

I recently told you that my email in-box was starting to feel more like a sluggish “to do list” than a sanctuary of productivity.  Do you remember that?

This was highlighted in a post describing our mutual difficulties with follow-up.

And yesterday I shared the nuclear option for handling an unhealthy email in-box. What was your take on that option?

Then there was a post I wrote for U.S. News that suggested some new year’s resolutions for your career. That post included the following suggestion: I will send shorter and crisper email messages. These are much easier to write.  They also result in better responses from the receiver.  Makes sense, right?

Finally, after writing the U.S. News post, I saw the following in a press release from Intermedia, a business communications provider.  They had just finished a survey on new year’s resolutions for communicating and published these findings from people just like you:

Get Organized: 61 percent of respondents pledge to keep their business emails and documents more organized in the new year

Respond Faster: 37 percent will try to be better about promptly responding to business emails and calls

Work After Hours: Only 19 percent of workers want to cut down on addressing business emails or voice mails during their time off work

So my summary on all this is that we are trying.  Resolving.  To be better at handling the massive oncoming storm of communication.

But wouldn’t it be better to avoid a swollen in-box altogether?  If you said yes and would like to know how . . .

Here’s my “how to” on reducing the incoming email flow:

1.  Stop sending emails. The fewer you send, the fewer incoming email message you’ll get. Instead, communicate by walking around. Or pick up the phone.   Especially when there is sensitivity or importance in your message, it is always better to communicate more directly. Or, where appropriate, use less formal communication tools.  A short text message, for example.

2. Use Twitter to communicate. Of course it is not private.  But some transparency in communications might be a good thing. People will write smarter and shorter. Knowing the world is watching.  And tweets are management-free.  For example, I never have to worry about deleting messages on Twitter.  They just float away.  I’d love to see a company with an internal Twitter communication system.  Where it is all out on the table.

3. Use rules to filter email. You can have emails from certain people go to unique in-boxes.  Some you check hourly or daily.  You can have messages you are only copied on go to an in-box you check less frequently.  This way the more important and urgent messages more easily find your eyeballs.

4. Train people to reach out to you differently. In his bestselling book, “The 4 Hour Work Week“, Timothy Ferriss suggests checking e-mail twice a day.  And then suggests some ways to educate people on your new practice.  Like an auto-responder to set new expectations on your response time. This specific suggestion may not work for you, but his idea that people need to have the right expectations makes sense.  So in your email signature say “Best way to reach me is (__________)”.

5. Don’t be afraid to unsubscribe to updates or change your subscription preferences.  Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Yahoo Groups all allow you to get the same message twice.  Once online and once in your email in-box.  Kill the e-mails and just check online for updates.  If you are getting ten daily email updates and change each of those to weekly updates, you’ve just reduced 70 emails to 10. Some worry that unsubscribing makes you a bad person.  A disloyal fan.  If you are getting emails that you don’t want or need, it is OK to unsubscribe.

What are your ideas to reduce incoming email?  Please share.  🙂

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Written by: Tim Tyrell-Smith
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Categories: Work and Life
  • Tim, excellent suggestions–as always. I missed yesterday’s Nuclear Option blog unfortunately, but yes, these are great steps to regain control an out of control inbox.

    Sorry, that wincing was me thinking about what my Outlook inbox looks like right now…

  • Thanks Ed – I heard you wince and it wasn’t pretty. 🙂 All part of my “take back control” from e-mail campaign.

  • Ana

    Hi Tim, with regard to number 3, I have become interested to know if anyone is using chatter.com as a communication tool in their organization. It seems to be somewhat similar to twitter, though I haven’t tried it. That super bowl commercial hooked me!

    By the way, my favorite email button is the delete button. I try to only handle an email once, act on it and delete it, or rarely file it in a folder.

  • Hi Ana – Good question re: chatter.com. I saw the SB ad too but have not tried it yet. So much to do!

    Smart strategy for email that you have – my problem is that I don’t always know what I will do/should do with all the communication I get. And once I leave it for the day, it flows down the list! 🙂

  • Tim,

    Great post! I think the #1 simplest solution is to THINK first before you click.

    You inspired me to publish a post today on this topic: Pre-flight email checklist – THINK before you click. Here’s the URL http://tinyurl.com/4cs2cs2

    I’d be interested in your comments.

    Twitter @caroldekkers

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  • Thanks Carol! Commented on your post – glad to help inspire it!

  • JRTodd

    Hi Tim and associates,
    I grasp and appreciate wanting to manage a significant quantity of incoming emails; good stuff!
    But, I am staggered by the desire wanting to essentially reduce the number of such emails that are incoming. I seek to dramatically increase the number of emails that I receive!! Presently, I only receive between 100 to 200 emails daily. For those in professional transition, I believe that is way too low. My personal metric shows that only way less than one percent of emails that I receive turn into viable professional position leads – that is just two a day! Only one or two a week go anywhere. The likelihood of those couple moving even close to interviews and offers is about 1:100. That means to get close to a new position takes months at that rate. I think we need to up the throughput dramatically toward getting back to working in a new position.

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  • This seems to be a hot topic these days. An overabundance of email reduced our productivity and our happiness. We become paralyzed by the need to read and respond to a mountain of emails. This in turn makes us put other potentially more important things lower down on our priority list. This translates to an uncompleted job or working longer hours…less happiness.

    There’s an interesting trend that might be catching on. Companies moving away from email and embracing social media as the communication vehicle of choice. Example: Atos Origin, a company of 49,000 people, moves to be email free in three years. http://ow.ly/3WSyB

    Are you ready to significantly reduce your email usage???

    David Inzlicht

  • Hey Jim – As I said in the article, the goal is not to reduce the quality of email, just to reduce the waste. How much time are we spending managing the email box when we should be out networking!

  • Thanks David – Appreciate your comment and re-tweet. Since I wrote this article, someone reminded me about chatter.com which offers a Twitter-like service for corporations. Makes sense to me!

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  • Anonymous

    It is a nice article about the how to reduce the quantity of Incoming Emails. There are so many ways to reduce the quantity of Incoming Emails. I also received so many unwanted Emails in my Inbox.

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  • Anonymous

    It is a nice article about the how to reduce the quantity of Incoming Emails. There are so many ways to reduce the quantity of Incoming Emails. I also received so many unwanted Emails in my Inbox.

    tracking system

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