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E-mail Overload: Digging out from Under

Written by Nickel - 2 Comments

Well, I spent two or three hours this afternoon sorting through my e-mail inbox at work. It had somehow swollen to 678 (!) messages. I used to be in the habit of sorting out my inbox – filing, deleting, and and trimming things back down – every Friday (at worst), but I’ve recently let that slip. When combined with my apparent inability to delete even the simplest, most inane messages, it got ugly. And fast. I’m not done yet… I’ve still got about 50 messages left to handle, but it’s now back down to a manageable level. If I can find a few spare minutes this weekend, I’ll be back on top. While I was at it, I also got myself off of a few extraneous mailing lists. This won’t completely stem the tide, but it should at least slow things down just a bit.

Published on May 27th, 2005
Modified on January 4th, 2006 - 2 Comments
Filed under: Productivity

About the author: is the founder and editor-in-chief of this site. He's a thirty-something family man who has been writing about personal finance since 2005, and guess what? He's on Twitter!

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2 Responses to “E-mail Overload: Digging out from Under”

  1. 1
    Matt Says:

    I have two rules.

    First, any message that comes from a mailing list I subscribed to goes into a seperate box for that list. That way, I can ignore list mail until I have a long stretch of time (such as a vacation) to go through it, without running the risk of missing something personal. Also, it means that any message which does land in my inbox is either personally directed to me by someone I know (and easily identifiable as such, if I sort by sender) or else it’s spam that squeaked through my filters.

    Second, every time I look at email, I do not consider the job done until the inbox is _empty_. (This would, of course, be impossible if not for spam filtering and Rule 1, but it’s the only way to avoid falling behind.) Messages which I want to save go elsewhere. Messages I want to read but don’t have time at the moment go elsewhere. If I don’t have time to handle it all, the email goes through a pretty ruthless triage process, but one way or another the inbox must be empty before anything short of the building being on fire will get me out of the chair.

    Sure, sometimes it takes me a few days to get to the “read as soon as I get a chance” folder, and that backlogs a bit. But at least I’m absolutely sure I’ll never miss out on something urgent because of an overwhelming backlog in my inbox, the way several of my friends have.

  2. 2
    nickel Says:

    Matt: That sounds like a good system. My main problem is that I have a hard time keeping track of things if stuff doesn’t initially land in my inbox. Just a state of mind more than anything, but I lose track of things if they don’t stare me in the face at least once. The problem is that this approach requires a lot of discipline, as things can build up very quickly. I really do need to experiment with filtering things off to other boxes form the beginning. Thanks for your feedback.

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