I’m Drowning in Work Email. What’s the Solution?

January 9, 2012 | By | Comments (2)

I sat down at my desk bright and early this morning, planning to post an answer to this etiquette question before any of you arrived at the office to confront an overflowing Inbox. I swear I did. But then I sneaked a quick peek at my own work email and here I am, surfacing—can it be?—nearly three hours later.


It’s a common problem. But an overloaded Inbox makes us feel cranky instead of polite. So to kick off Be Nice on the Internet Week, here are a few quick tips about how to get rid of the bloat:

1. Set a good example. Don’t overload other people’s Inboxes. Avoid hitting “Reply All,” for instance, unless “all” really need to read the email you’re sending. Also, if you wake up on a Saturday morning with a great idea everyone at the office should hear, it doesn’t mean you need to interrupt co-workers’ weekends. Use Boomeranggmail.com to schedule your email to be sent later, at a more appropriate time. If your great idea arrives in everyone’s Inbox at 9 a.m. Monday, people will be more likely to focus on it.

2. Be brief. We all have co-workers who send the sort of long, wordy correspondence that reminds you of a character in a Jane Austen novel. Don’t be one of these people — it’s self-absorbed to think everyone has endless amounts of time to devote to rambling emails. When you receive one of these five-pagers, be succinct when you reply. “See you there,” or “Good idea, thanks,” are polite ways to acknowledge that you managed to glean the gist of it. Over time, you will teach others not to expect you to compose a windy response to every email.

3. Filter, filter, filter. If you set up filters, your email can miraculously organize itself —by project, or by subject, or even by sender. You can tell a filter to automatically mark new emails as “read,” which works particularly well if, say, you’re on an office-wide mailing list for announcements that don’t usually pertain to you. You can click on the filter anytime you actually need to read one.

4. Get rid of the junk. If you receive promotional emails at work, remove yourself from those lists. Go to Unsubscribe.com to download a tool that will add an “Unsubscribe” button you can click as you read email.

Is your Inbox overloaded? If so, how do you deal with it? Do you have any great tips for the rest of us?

(image via Realsimple.com)

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