Managing email communication: Challenges of an overflowing inbox

December 31, 2012

If there is one thing I would like to get better at (actually this is not the only one!), it is the management of my email communication. I realize that I fail to pick up some important emails in the midst of heavy email traffic. To some mails, I defer my response to a later date, hoping I will do a better job this way. But then, it never gets done as new mails keep pouring in. It is a 24×7 and 7/7 affair. It is fast. It is instant. It is not just a two-way communication. It is a multi-way process. We write to one, copy others and receive messages like-wise, including several unsolicited mails, forwarded by others.  This makes our inbox so crowded that we find it difficult to deal with. The real problem is that we miss out on responding to important mail(s). What can be an efficient way of managing email communication?

Though solutions will vary from person to person, some of the following tips might come in handy:

  1. Skim through mails and decide what to do with the mails you receive. Pick up the ones that require an action or response from you.
  2. Respond immediately, if you can. Having reviewed several of my email responses, I realized that I could have sent an immediate response. Deferring the response did not help in any way. In the end I did not send a better response. I faced embarrassment of having got a reminder and it also caused stress. If it is just not possible to respond immediately, then include it in your things-to-do list. This way, you will remember to follow up and send your response within the time limit.
  3. There are several emails that are just for information purposes. A quick read will help you decide what to do with them. You may decide to archive them or forward to someone else, who is better placed to act upon them. Archiving them into different folders or senders will help you locate them quickly when it is required.
  4. Don’t feel shy to press the delete button. It lightens up your inbox. It is easier to locate a mail you are looking for from amongst hundreds of mails rather than thousands.
  5. Organize your contact list into different sub groups; workplace, professional networks, friends, social circles/interests etc.

I write these tips based on my own reflections and they seem to help. The key is to respond immediately if you can. DO IT NOW! attitude works perfectly well here as well.