How to manage your email overload and boost productivity

As the lull of holidays subside and you trawl through the emails in your inbox, you’re probably feeling that good old sensation that comes with the modern workday territory – email overload.

What needs attention, who needs a quick answer and when will you get back to that burning question that sits read but unprocessed, searing a hole in your inbox?

We know, we understand, we’re dealing with it too. So here are the top tips for sorting your inbox, and dealing with email overload in 2022.

Serious email statistics

In 2020, there were over four billion email users worldwide, sending a whopping 306 billion emails each day, according to Statista.

They further anticipate that, despite the uptake of messaging apps, email growth will continue.

By 2025, they estimate there will be 4.6 billion email users globally, who collectively will craft, draft and hit the send button on an astounding 376 billion emails each and every day.

If it feels like a good portion of those hundreds of billions of emails are landing in your inbox, here are some ways to manage the influx.

The quick cull

Every email inbox has its fair share of junk – the type of correspondence that you can assess and delete with the swift click of a key. Should some of that be spam, allocate it to the spam box so it will be filtered out in the future.

Meanwhile, take the time to unsubscribe from any promotional lists that serve no serious purpose in your professional life. This can be tedious but is well worth the effort in the future.

That should leave you with only relevant emails that need to be processed in a number of ways.

Be timely (but not a slave) 

While it’s tempting to check your emails every time a pop-up appears, experts suggest batch-processing at select times of the day is a better method for dealing with a high volume of email communication.

Set yourself a minimum period of 15 minutes every few hours to check in, read and answer relevant correspondence. Some suggest the 2-2-2 rule should apply to corporate communication like emails; where you answer a phone in two seconds, reply to texts within two minutes, and deal with emails within two hours.

Know your settings

Most email services have a series of settings that you can apply allowing you to sort, return to and file relevant emails with ease.

It’s critical to know these settings and use them. That way spam/junk flows into the junk folder, while you can create files or folders of correspondence that needs attention and can be recalled readily if required.

A filing system may be as simple as folders that denote projects, departments or topics to be followed up later.

Use the force

Another great tip is to copy yourself in on any correspondence where you’re awaiting a reply. Then immediately file or set protocols to file this in a “waiting on info” folder.

This allows you to easily ascertain what conversations are still in play where information is required. It also enables you to quickly find and refer to a topic where information is pending.

KISS issues goodbye

Email is an effective form of communication but can be a time-consuming one where one email leads to a chain of conversation. Take a quick audit of how concisely you correspond within an email.

Correspondence should apply the “Keep It Simple, Stupid” principle where it is clear, concise and reduces the need to “to and fro” between conversation participants. Where appropriate, limit emails to five lines, use bullet points if required and stick to a single topic.

Pick up the phone!

Should the topic of email conversation prove convoluted, open to confusion or require negotiation, another form of correspondence might be better suited, like using the telephone. Then, if necessary, note the outcome of that conversation briefly in a follow-up email to ensure clarity.

Handy helpers

With so many emails sent and received each day, it’s only natural there are a host of available apps, services and alternatives available to assist in handling the torrent of correspondence.

This includes calendars and task management functions, along with collaborative document services like Google Docs. All these cut the need to retain emails or engage in conversations that go backwards and forwards endlessly.

Meanwhile, the following apps can also assist:

Spark – Spark intuitively understands the priority of emails putting the most important at the top of your inbox.

SaneBox – Like Spark, SaneBox employs an email filter to sort your correspondence by priority. It also has features like reminders.

Boomerang – Boomerang allows you to send away distracting emails until a more appropriate time, and schedule emails to be sent when you wish. It can also remind you if you are awaiting a response.

Slack – Remove the flow of internal conversation with messaging services like Slack. Slack provides a team workspace where all relevant correspondence is housed under the same roof, including actionable items and organised conversations.

Mailstrom – Mailstrom offers a host of services to have your email approach “Inbox Zero”. It can identify bundles of similar emails, so you can deal with them as a group, allows you to block topics and senders, and enables you to easily unsubscribe from lists and newsletters. There is a great mobile app by the same folks called “Chuck”,  available on the App Store.

Sortd – Sortd is another email organiser that allows you to bring email and tasks together within an existing account. Simply drag and drop items to where you want them. Lists like “to do”, and “follow up” can be relabeled, re-ordered and returned to when needed.

ClearBit – ClearBit enables you to easily find emails, correspondence and create a dossier of contact information. It has a host of add-ons for sales, lead generation, financial compliance and more.

Crystal Knows – On a slightly different, note, Crystal Knows allows you to better tailor emails to create the right impression in correspondence. The software compiles personality data that allows you to “make a better impression, build a rapport, and have a more productive conversation”.

Employ automation

Many of these apps and integrations enable email to be better automated, but within each email program there are also inbuilt features that allow your email to be more effective, especially in your absence. If you’re heading on holidays or going into a meeting, set up automatic responses to alert correspondents of your status.

Rinse and repeat…

Whether you’re seeking the ultimate goal of Inbox Zero or just looking to get a better grasp on your correspondence, email management is always a work in progress. It’s also a highly personal affair where you employ tricks and techniques that work for you.

On that note, we’d love to know your top tips for dealing with the constant flow of emails, so feel free to offer some comments.

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Cassandra Charlesworth

Cassandra Charlesworth is a features writer for Elite Agent Magazine with over 15 years’ journalism experience in metropolitan and regional newsrooms. She has a specialist interest in real estate, tech disruption and a good old-fashioned “yarn”.