Paul Wherly

The 3 steps to avoiding email overload

We all know that Monday morning feeling when you drag yourself into work only to be confronted by a mountain of emails. Managing and responding to emails is one of the most common, time consuming tasks in the workplace, yet for most people it’s an unavoidable chore. If you feel that you are slowly drowning under the weight of all those emails, then it’s time to start a new strategy for the daily management of your inbox.

Avoid distractions

Most of the emails you will receive on any given day are irrelevant time wasters. Unfortunately, you won’t know how important they are until you open each message. Start thinking about the time you waste by reading through all those emails. This is a great excuse to avoid other tasks, but whether you intend it or not, the emails are causing a distraction from the real work that you should be doing. One way of dealing with this is to read each email only once and quickly. Don’t get distracted by embedded links to additional content. Your goal is to establish the relative importance of the email based on who it is from and how quickly it must be dealt with.


Always prioritise each email on your first read. It’s simply not time-effective to deal with each email when they come in. If you do find an important task then only deal with this and ignore the rest. Your inbox was not designed to be your task list, so don’t treat it as such. It’s too easy to lose sight of the most important tasks in your bulging inbox. Instead, create a workflow system to rank and organise your work tasks.


If you leave every single email in your inbox, you’ll soon find the ever growing list to be unmanageable. After a few days, that important email from your boss which you made a mental note to deal with quickly will be swallowed up in an unintelligible mass of information. It’s time to organise your inbox now, because the more emails that you collect, the harder it is to work through and organise them. Start by creating a folder structure within your inbox, with labels that reflect the names of your most important projects. Then move every email into your subfolders so that there is nothing left in your inbox.

If you maintain this process of organising incoming emails you will always be a step ahead.

You can avoid email overload easily and efficiently if you avoid distractions, prioritise and organise.

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