6 ways to de-stress your email

Email is a sort of necessary evil. Given the fact that most of us don’t have the option to ditch it altogether (the phone calls I could handle, but could we really go back to just snail mail and faxing in business?), we are pretty much stuck with it.  As awesome as it is in many ways, it can also cause a great deal of stress for many people.

Here are some quick changes you can make that may take a little of the ‘evil’ away.

  1. Keep your inbox to as few emails as possible, and have a habit of emptying it daily. If you can’t action all the emails every day, use a task management tool to record those you still need to action and then file them away. You could also use flags or categories to mark them as Pending Action so you don’t forget about them.
  2. Don’t trust “unread marks”. Sometimes we accidentally mark emails as unread then lose them in the clutter without reading them. If it was an important email, that could really ruin your week.
  3. Think twice before hitting “send”. Could this end up being a chain of emails that take up a lot of time? Would you be better off with a quick phone conversation? Sometimes a 10-email conversation can be made over the phone in just 30 seconds. And the more emails you send, the more emails you get in reply!
  4. Write shorter emails. One line of thought is that you can construct any email you wish in 5 sentences or less (or even three, but my verbose personality objects too strongly for me to try that one!). That will save you a significant amount of time (once you get used to it, of course – the first few times I did it I spent a fair amount of editing time reducing my words!).
  5. Keep your folders to a minimum. Try the ‘no scroll’ rule. If you have to scroll to get to a folder, you have too many. We don’t need a great deal of folders – most email programs have a great search function that enables you to find emails you’ve filed using key words (not to mention that we’d only go looking for less than 20% of the filed emails anyway). If you have too many folders, you spend too long worrying about where to put things, and where to find them again. Keep it simple; only go to second-level nesting, and keep the first level to one screen. Or try having just one and using ‘search’ and ‘sort’ to find them.
  6. Unsubscribe – you don’t have enough time to read them anyway. Instead, bookmark the blog or website so you can go and look at it when you need something or have time for some reading.
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