How to get fewer emails

Many of us struggle with email volume. It’s a source of stress, interruption and distraction. Taming your Inbox is important. The first step is to get fewer emails in the first place. Here are a few tips:

1. Send fewer emails – If you send email, you tend to get replies. Often for every email you initiate, you’ll get several responses and follow-on discussions. So basic though it may sound, if you cut off the source, you’ll stop the deluge.

2. Use other channels – yes, the phone is a far richer one-to-one channel than email. IM is cleaner and faster for urgent correspondence. Even walking around and speaking to people face-to-face can be more productive than hammering away at your keyboard. If you tend to default to email, try quitting the application and handling communication differently as a test, just for an hour or so.

3. Don’t report via email – emailreports are useless. They take a long time to produce, they get lost, are poorly formatted and
they spark group discussion which is irrelevant to most. Far better to use a web-based collaboration system or a traditional report.

4. Avoid email aliases – in some industries (like PR!) these are standard, but in general try to keep off as many aliases as you can. Make your
exit from the list public so people know to loop you in if there is something relevant. This will avoid all that random chatter about a peripheral project.

5. Turn off social network alerts – most of these are double-ups.

6. Unsubscribe from lists – be religious about this. And try to uncheck all those sneaky buttons which ask if you want news updates when you sign up for a new service or buy something. They always seem to have too many negatives for me: ‘Uncheck this box if you do not want to be left off our mailing list’.

7. Slow the Check Mail interval
– we all want to know the instant an email has arrived, but slowing the polling times down, even to five minutes will help to stem the flow.

8. Write short emails – take the time to write shorter, clearer emails. Write so you cannot be misunderstood. Then you won’t get so many questions.

9. Cut the banter – who am I kidding? Email is great for banter, but bad for your Inbox.