With our time and attention being strictly limited by a deluge of events, people and issues clamoring for our attention, we are increasingly being forced to set the right priorities so that we can maximize our efficiency. The key, when it comes to email management, is not simply cutting down but doing so without affecting your productivity.
Until last year, I was subscribed to 96 email newsletters – and that’s in the Internet marketing niche alone. Today, I’m signed up to only 6 of them. The steps I’ll outline below are the exact sames ones I took along this journey to battling email overload.
1. Audit Your Email Time
The first step is to analyze how much time you have available to deal with email. Maybe you have 20 minutes to check email every day. Or perhaps you can only afford to catch up over weekends, when you’ll take a couple of hours to scan that cluttered in-box, and read through a week’s backlog of email.
Your specific style and situation will be unique. But no matter how much time you have and when, it is important to know the frequency and duration for which you will deal with your email, so that you may use it more effectively.
2. Audit Your Email Volume
How much email do you receive? The instinctive answer is to say, “Too much!” But that doesn’t help you much. It’s time to get specific. Look at your inbox right now, and note down the total number of emails in it. Keep track for a week and see how many new messages you get every day, and how they are distributed.
Typically, you will have 2 or 3 ‘busy’ days every week, and a day or two when the volume slows down. Depending upon where you live and how extensively you use email, you may notice that this also ebbs and flows like the tides, with some periods having heavy inflows and other times being quieter. Knowing this helps you decide which times of the day (or which days of the week) are best to tackle email.
3. Audit Your Email Value
Some tasks and jobs are heavily dependent upon sending and receiving email. Others are not. Which kind are you involved in?
Critically examine the value of all emails you receive. Are they mostly educational material and industry updates that help you stay on top of your field? Or are they jokes and inspirational quotes friends and family pass along? Or is it mainly junk email and sales pitches you never asked for? Or something else?
If an email message is likely to earn you an additional income, or save you money, or give you an edge in career or life, then it has value. If it doesn’t, then its value is lesser, or non-existent. Be ruthless when determining the value of the email you receive. Being tempted to regard them all equally can lead to your never getting out of the quagmire that’s your in-box!
4. Audit Your Email Utility
The final question to ask yourself about your email is: “Do I really need this to come in the form of email?”
The 96 ezines I was subscribed to were delivered by email. Each of them had a copy archived on a website or blog. I could just as easily have them bookmarked or added to my RSS feed reader and not lose any of the information they provided.
But what really helped me slash this email in-box clutter was discovering content curation sites in my niche which did even this work for me – and culled the news from across these email newsletters (and many more), then presented the summary to me as one daily email message! How about that? Instead of 300 or so emails every week, I was now dealing with just SEVEN – and not losing much of the value.
5. Take Corrective Action
All this analysis is useless unless you are committed to acting on the information and doing it immediately. Yes, it can be difficult to click on the ‘unsubscribe’ link on a newsletter you have been receiving for years – but doing it is vital to your overall productivity, especially if you only have limited time available in your day, and time you waste on browsing email comes out of time available to get more meaningful work done!
Some steps you can take include:
1. Assign yourself a schedule on which to check your email, read it and respond to it. Stick to those limits very strictly.
2. Use email filters intelligently. Most email clients offer some variation which allows you to automatically move messages (grouped by sender or content) into a folder, where you can get to them conveniently and quickly.
3. By filtering your email depending upon value, you will find it easier to focus your attention first upon the most productive messages – and leave the rest for when you can spare a few minutes for them.
4. Whenever you can find an alternative to receiving news or information by email, and that one is more convenient, quick or easier to catch up with than email, you should adopt it. RSS feed readers are just one example. Mobile alerts, curated content resources and news clipping services are others.
5. Audit your actions. Is what you’re implementing now making things better for you – or worse? Knowing the answer will help you tweak and change the process until it works well for your needs.
Yes, you can battle email overload – and win. No, it won’t be easy or effortless. But if I could cut down from 96 ezines to ONE and save at least 3 hours a week from just this one change, don’t you think it’s worth exploring a similar option in your own digital communication system?
Dr.Mani Sivasubramanian is an Internet infopreneur who creates and sells information products to raise funds that sponsor heart surgery for under-privileged children. On his ‘Infopreneur Blog‘ he shares valuable tips that help information marketers succeed massively.