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Solving the email backlog

At best I have a zero inbox. At worse 3,000+ in a queue - the average somewhere in between. Here are some ideas to keep this animal under control.

Looking at my email history, I wrote over 25,000 emails last year (I was on a half time sabbatical) !!

That number is staggering - 480 a week - 68 a day on average - I received over 75,000 through the year. Email clearly occupies far too much of my life.

I can't afford an email secretary and to be honest that person would wear away their fingers trying to deal with it all, so there had to be a better way. Thinking through it, there were only five occasions in the last 25 years when I reached zero and each time that feeling of elation last five minutes until the next one came in and the cycle started all over again.

Email is a modern day nightmare - we never wrote that many letters or made that many phone calls. It's habitual and I often wonder when reading something from a friend, did you really need to send me that. It's advantages are obvious - free and instant.

GDPR regulation in the UK hoped to solve that, 'giving the power back to the user' to decide who has the right to send them email. A few months on it has made no difference what so ever, I regularly get added to lists without my permission and get ignored when I try to unsubscribe. I don't know if that is your experience also.

Anyway I've listed 12 points to help you speedily reduce your overwhelmed inbox. They are quick and easy, and will reduce stress.

1) Look at every email !! - and then make an instant decision of what to do, unsubscribe, delete, file for reference, action or keep for later. Keep for later is last as I try to always deal with the email there and then.

2) Unsubscribe from as much as possible. I get bombarded by marketing emails, so my view is - if it makes my life better and reduces stress I'll stay on the list - which means in practice I unsubscribe from email lists a couple of times a day. That does help to stem the email tide coming toward you.

3) Automate the filing. Setting up rules in your Outlook or Mail programme, can automatically file emails into certain folders so when you feel like it you can then just focus on one subject.

4) Reduce what you send out. Why, because people reply. Particularly if you are part of a group. It's frustrating when there's 25 in the group and everyone reply's to all, you get 25 times the subject you have already seen.

5) Take group conversations where you regularly discuss things with people to WhatsApp or something similar to keep your email from meltdown.

6) Never read emails before bed, it will wake your mind up and get you thinking or even worrying about things which will impact your sleep. If you want a good night sleep don't look at your emails beyond 7pm.

7) If you have a backlog, time to think about setting up folders to file stuff into, don't let your inbox be your filing cabinet. Aim to keep your inbox empty.

8) You can sort your inbox into 'from' or 'to' or date (that's the default). In sorting you can quickly focus on a person or a subject or make it easier to highlight emails you get from a particular source to file or delete them.

9) A friend of mine only ever replies to emails with one word answers, keeping the typing down to a minimum - Yes, No, Done, Praying etc. are standard responses.

10) Don't write open ended sentences, because you will get a reply, thats a question to clarify. Make decisive points that are clear.

11) A lot of people reply with Thanks, appreciate it. Don't bother. I know it's polite and I advocate for that, but when it comes to email, I don't want to read 68 thank you's a day responding to the emails I write.

12) Set yourself a goal of when you need to set aside time just to bring the inbox back under control. 100 is about right - when it gets to or goes beyond 100 you need to book yourself an appointment with your email to sort it out.

Hope that helped. Now let me send you an email to tell you about this blog !!

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