How to reduce the number of emails in your inbox

Like any other tool, email is what you make it. It’s an incredible tool of productivity, collaboration and knowledge-sharing that is ubiquitous across devices and operating systems. That’s not to say I haven’t struggled with it like everybody else does but I have learned to tame email.

I’m sure you yourself have experienced this. On average I receive over 100 emails every day. How many of these are really important? Generally, less than 10. It’s time to create some space in your inbox so you can really focus on the tasks that make a difference to your business or work.

Here are three simple suggestions for reducing the number of emails in your inbox:

  1. Unsubscribe. Be ruthless and unsubscribe from any unsolicited email lists that make it past your spam filter.  Don’t just delete it, take the time to unsubscribe and then you won’t receive any more form that sender. Be realistic and remove all unnecessary subscriptions that you may have actually signed up for too.
  2. Stop using your Inbox like a filing cabinetPractice Inbox Zero! It’s easy to let old emails pile up over time and disappear into a large, unorganized mass in your inbox. You might think to yourself that someday, perhaps, you’ll need old messages so you should store them forever. Stop thinking of your inbox as a filing cabinet and get rid of old emails completely.
  3. Send fewer emails – Every time you send an email, what’s going to happen? It’s going to trigger a response, and then you’re going to have to respond to that response, and then they’re going to add some people on the “cc” line, and then those people are going to respond.

What suggestions do you have to reduce the number of emails in your inbox?

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About Michael Keithley
Digital Transformation CIO and Public Speaker. Previously, CIO at Creative Artists Agency

4 Responses to How to reduce the number of emails in your inbox

  1. Kristofer Ohman says:

    If in doubt throw it out!
    Be equally ruthless on information getting into your inbox as we are on unsubscribing.
    Arrange a CC folder called .CCReadReview and direct all CC’s there to process them all at once.

    • I couldn’t agree more – when in doubt throw it out! Deleting an email is one of the best actions you can do because it will never occupy any of your brain cycles ever again. And remember just like physical paper – never touch an email twice – decide what to do wit it the furst time you process it.

  2. Useful list here. I’d also add:

    – mandatory delay on all responses. Related to what you’ve written before here on batching email and processing to zero — and about training people away from the pattern of multiple back-and-forth emails to us by NOT responding within 5 minutes every time. People quickly learn to pick up the phone for truly urgent matters.

    – use filters and rules (sparingly, and only if the payoff is high). I handle the accounts for my organisation, so roughly half the emails I get have invoices and receipts attached, where the only action is “print attachment”, and all further actions are related to the attachment, not the email. I use an Outlook rule to route all these emails to a “print” folder, which I can empty to the printer once a day. This gets them out of my inbox and my field of view, until I want to address them.

    • Dave – Your mandatory delay on all responses is a great idea. I never thought about the implications of this during processing. Delay responding even if you receive an email just before/during your scheduled processing time. Otherwise, people will be conditioned to get immediate responses sometimes but not always. I will implement this immediately. Thanks!

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