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  • Overwhelmed by email (again!)
  • huggis

    So drowning in email and able to decide whether to can my whole filing system and go with simple GTD folders (Do, Delegate, Defer, Reference, Processed). Currently have around 50 folders covering clients, projects and business functions.

    Primary method of prioritizing work is flagging mails. Interested to hear what method works for others (guess not being on ST will help improve productivity 🙂


    Maybe look at setting up some rules for processing the inbound email.

    Alternatively different email addresses for different facets of the business so as you can simply prioritize by mailbox then.

    Premier Icon llama

    If it’s something you need to do then there is no point in putting it in a folder, whether by a filter or manually, just do it right away. Don’t bother wasting time prioritizing, if its really important they will call you, so just start at the top and work down.

    Don’t listen to me though I hardly get any emails at the moment.

    ctrl+a shift+del is another option

    Premier Icon stilltortoise

    Is the issue that you are struggling to organise them or that you cant imagine how you will ever deal with them all? You can prioritise and organise until the cows come home but sometimes the simple fact is that there aren’t enough hours in the day.

    I have numerous tools at work to organise my work, ranging from simple flagging of emails to full-on cloud-based solutions like AtTask…and of course the trusty pen and paper. At the end of the day they’re just repositories for work that still needs to be done. Maybe you’re feeling overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of it rather than the way it’s all organised and filed. Be honest with yourself about which problem it is that you’re trying to solve.

    What I also find helps is – as somouk alluded to – having buckets of work for your different job roles. For example if you have 5 key activities that you are uniquely employed to do, set aside time to work on each of those one at a time. When I get most stressed is when trying to spin all the plates at once.

    As a final tip, you could try categorising incoming email as “Your problem” and “Someone else’s problem”. Most incoming internal email, for example, is often someone else’s problem that they’re trying to get someone else to deal or help with. It’s amazing how often these problems will disappear without you getting involved.

    Premier Icon Drac

    What ever you do don’t get distracted by something else when you have loads of work to do. 😯


    My inbox regularly floats around 200ish.

    Check once every 2 hours on the hour. Prioritise on the basis of importance on MY terms, not someone else’s decision that it is “urgent” – if it is that urgent, they can call me.

    Basically, key to it is being entirely selfish about your needs and what you need to/can achieve.

    Email is a horribly lazy tool for people to not think and wash their hands of stuff, offloading it onto someone else with the catch all “I sent XXXX an email about it”. I know several companies now that have banned internal email except for sending documentation for this very reason – makes people communicate and take better ownership of things.


    Read, action, file.

    Then you don’t spend time reading emails over and over again. The action could be to add it to your to do list of whatever type you use, be it peice of paper, flagged emails, tasks etc. or just do the action required if its quick. You can prioritise the order you read however you want with rules, colours, reading the headings etc but unless you get lots of email you genuinely don’t need to read there is no way arround actually reading it all. But it’s important to only read it once and if there is no action for you, to file it imediately so you don’t ever read it again.

    The important thing is that once you have read the email you don’t do anything else until it is filed away. I.e. complete the action.

    The filling system is not important, I’d even be tempted to put them all in one big folder called “filed”. After all it’s a lot easier to find things with search than remebering which folder you put them in so spending time on filing is wasted time anyway.

    This way your inbox ony contains things you haven’t read/actioned and isn’t so daunting. All of your “things to do” are in one place and you aren’t trying balance the demand of email with other tasks. If you to do list is genuinely too long then you need to figure out a way to have less to do or delegate some of the tasks to underlings. There is no magic way to do the tasks that come in via email some magic emaily way.

    Premier Icon mogrim

    Set up a mail filter for any mail where you’re a CC and not a To – and send them direct to a different folder. Mark them as read while you’re at it.


    Thanks for all the good advice…yes filing away perhaps only makes us feel productive! At the EOD most people search for information instead of going to a folder….

    There comes the mental challenge – can one live with all their information in one big pile instead of separated out?

    Premier Icon mogrim

    There comes the mental challenge – can one live with all their information in one big pile instead of separated out?

    Depends on the mail client – Outlook is pretty good at searching, Lotus Notes ( 😥 ) isn’t.

    Premier Icon seosamh77

    I just deal with emails as they come in, once dealt with they get deleted(I don’t delete in deleted folder incase I need to find something later, yes I’ve got a 20+GB mail box), and flag them if i can’t be arsed doing them at that point. I generally just prioitise based on who I know will shout the loudest if not dealt with.

    Generally working with 40-50 emails a day, sometimes double that if busy.

    Premier Icon flashpaul

    Ignore every mail you are carbon copied on


    What @andyrm says

    Always read/answer messages from your boss. Other messages read/do what is important for you. If something is important to someone else they can speak to you about it.

    Company I worked for removed “reply-all” as an email option in an attempt to cut down ridiculous chains with big cc lists and numerous people commenting. A colleague of mine read his email in the morning when he got in and then closed the application until the following day. lots of different techniques.


    Outlook is pretty good at searching, Lotus Notes ( ) isn’t.

    I would actually consider moving jobs rather than use Lotus Notes. It really is that bad.

    Premier Icon Cougar

    Outlook is pretty good at searching

    Exactly. If you’re manually looking for information, you’re doing it wrong. They’re not paper records any more, hit Ctrl-E and type what you’re looking for.

    Premier Icon takisawa2

    If it’s something you need to do then there is no point in putting it in a folder, whether by a filter or manually, just do it right away.

    And in the real world… 🙄

    Quarterly psp files, if it’s a CC, drag straight to psp.
    If direct to you read, action & drag to psp.
    I get 60-90 a day.
    A lot of mine simply don’t get read first time around.
    Sad fact, but that’s life (work).

    If I get stressed I close Outlook, no messing.
    And that daft Lync communicator, that lets folk instant message you…
    The sharing screens is handy though.

    The worst thing…
    Folk that ring up, & say
    “I’ve sent you an email..”.(then pause), expecting you to read it right away…grrrr.

    And folk that just walk up & stand by your desk, wether your on the phone, or busy working, & just stand there…
    I take great pleasure in totally ignoring them

    God, I’m a grump bugger. 😳

    I stopped foldering emails. I never delete emails.

    In fact, I never organise emails, at all. If it’s an email that I just can’t miss – I typically add a task to it (right click, easy enough).

    That also typically gets ignored so I go by the “what do I need to prioritize today using my brain”. Seems to work for me but everyone’s different.

    Premier Icon roach

    **** I hate being a desk jockey!


    I use a Onebox. My email gets read, I’ll either delete it if I know I won’t ever want to look at it again, or leave it where it is. If it needs a reply, it either gets it immediately, or flagged for future attention. Every so often I have a look at the flagged mail and deal with some of it.

    Search these days is so effective, there is no point in filing into different folders. In fact, filing is *worse* than just leaving it in a heap.


    And that daft Lync communicator, that lets folk instant message you…

    Lync is brill. Instead of daft long email chains or tedious phone calls i have to answer I get a little pop up that I can answer straight away, in 30s or 10 mins. Quick query. I can type a reply and forget it. Needs a longer explanation I can convert to a voice call, or just show someone the answer, even draw a picture. Online meetings are infinitely better than conference calls.

    I’ve never loved a piece of software so much, makes working in a large international organisation so much easier. Swoon!


    Disable the popup that tells you that you have new mail – very distracting.
    Set up a rule to move / highlight everything that you’re cc’d on (lower priority)
    Set up a rule to flag up anything from your boss (higher priority)
    Don’t delete anything or bother filing it – archive it and use tags for really important stuff.
    Use a good search tool like X1 if you’re stuck.
    Don’t use “Conversation” view as your normal view in Outlook 2013 – you will miss important updates (but it’s really good when dealing with search results).

    Lync / Communicator are OK IF people respect your status on there.

    Get a PA / graduate to manage them for you.

    I have had ~250 emails / day and it’s easy to get sucked in to trying to deal with them all. You can’t unless your job is just to respond to emails.

    Talk to people rather than sending emails.

    My current unread count is 1027…Work to the principle that if it’s really important they’ll ring you if you’ve not responded to the email. If they just keep emailing you to tell you to check your email they need to learn how to deal with people and realise that some people don’t spend that day being an email jockey.


    Work to the principle that if it’s really important they’ll ring you

    If it’s really important to them they will ring you.


    My current unread count is 1027

    1,500 unread here. It used to stress me out but now I just ignore it and work by priority.

    You can only do your best. You get paid by the day. **** it. If you’re not doing a good enough job they’ll fire you and things will become far more interesting. That’s what I tell myself anyway

    Premier Icon allfankledup

    I get several emails a day – less in this role than my last
    I’m assuming that your work and personal email are separate.
    I use outlook at home, and mac mail at home.

    In work – 300 ish mails a day – last role was 800, which was mental
    I get a lot of mail from automated tools – monitoring and ticket systems, status reporting from different groups etc.
    I filter everything that I get daily by source – so any status type mails / automated mails are directed to their own folders.
    I clear down every mail first thing in the morning – those I need to action get a follow up flag associated with them – this creates a task in outlook that I will mark complete when I’ve completed the ask.
    During the day, starting from a baseline of no mail to read, I’ll use the “unread mail” filter to keep up with new items.
    As I work on tasks through the day, I mark them complete, anything needing done gets added to the list as it comes in

    At home
    Everything gets filtered using an IMAP set up
    The home mail replicates to my ios devices according to the filters on the home machine. I am more selective of what to read, choosing certain groups etc.Most subscriptions or marketing mails are filtered and ignored for months.


    Leave as is, Monday and Tuesday read all, Wednesday skim read, Thursday read the title, Friday delete all, job jobbed

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