Top 10 Tricks For Dealing With Email Overload

Top 10 Tricks For Dealing With Email Overload

It doesn’t matter what you do, modern jobs seem to require that everyone barrage you with email at all hours of the day. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and like you’ll never get back to a clean inbox, here are 10 of our favourite tips to help you manage the ever-growing mountain of email.

10. Get to Know Your Email Client

how to become a Gmail mastersome of our favourite experimental Gmail featuresyou should definitely enableOutlookThunderbird

9. Learn Your Email Values

writingclarityconcisionmaking it actionablerelevance

8. Filter Priority Messages

Chances are, not every single email you get requires your attention right away. Filter out the important messages so when you’re crunched for time, you can prioritise what email you answer. Gmail’s Priority Inbox is a fantastic, automated way to do this, although you could probably accomplish something similar with a few well-crafted filters in any email client.

7. Don’t Check It Too Often

Assign yourself a 15-minute minimum for email checkingdon’t check it first thing in the morningnever

6. Respond In a Timely Manner

Responding to your email quickly keeps you looking professional, but it’s a balancing act. Try following the 2-2-2 rule, which says to aim for answering emails within two hours of their arrival. If you don’t have time to respond to it right now, a service like Boomerang for Gmail can remind you of it later on so you don’t let it float to the bottom of your inbox. Remember, responding in a timely manner is not the same as responding immediately — not only does that mean you’re breaking tip #7, but it means people will then expect you to always reply instantly, which is often an unachievable goal.

5. Keep It Under Control When You’re On Holiday

take an actual delete-all-email sabbatical

4. Use Text Expansion to Save Yourself Hours of Typing

long advocated using a system-wide text expander

3. Learn to Use the Search Function

A recent study found that wading through email folders is an inefficient way to search through old messages. This doesn’t mean don’t use folders — You don’t want to become an email piler, where everything piles up in your inbox — but it means learn to use your client’s search function. When it comes time to find that old email, don’t go clicking through folders, use advanced search operators in conjunction with good filters to find what you’re looking for.

2. Get Rid of Unwanted Spam

It’s unlikely work email is the only thing overloading you. The other thing taking up all that space in your inbox is spam, and while it seems impossible to get rid of, there are a lot of techniques you can use to keep it at a minimum. First, make sure you know which messages were sent directly to you and not to a mailing list, by colouring them in Outlook, highlighting them in Thunderbird or turning on personal level indicators in Gmail. Next, you can avoid incoming spam by filtering the word “unsubscribe”, and filter future spam by using a temporary, disposable email address from a service like Trashmail or Mailinator. With a few extra filters and tools, you can keep your inbox (mostly) free of any spam that comes your way.

1. Triage Your Email to an Empty Inbox

In the end, the best way to get to inbox zero is to get your email out of your inbox, act on it, then archive it away. We’ve always advocated triaging your inbox with the trusted trio of folders: Follow Up, Archive, and Hold. If you can get by without ever leaving a read message in your inbox, you’ll be able to achieve that mental peace you’ve always wished for. Check out our full guide to triage to learn more.

These aren’t the only tips that’ll help you keep a clean inbox, but they’re some of the ones we’ve found most useful over the years. Got your own tip or trick to dealing with a constant barrage of messages? Let us know about it in the comments.


  • This works well in Thunderbird, and you can use something similar in Yahoo Mail by setting up filters and throw-away email addresses. I save all spammers and scammers into my Yahoo address book so when it gets hacked (as it inevitably will be) they all get a dose of their own medicine. I have also added the email adresses of the various authorities in the UK and the States to the address book so its self reporting.

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