My Inbox is always full…

My e-mail Inbox is always full. How about yours?

In the last five years, I have gotten my Inbox down to four e-mails for about three hours. For me, this is similar to being on a diet. I can tell you the exact number of hours I could wear size 2 jeans.

I average 400-500 e-mails in my Inbox at any one time. Sometimes, I get a burst of energy and I clear out a couple of hundred, but like rabbits, they multiply and I’m right back to north of 400.

I have a few simple rules about e-mail:

  • Each message stays in my Inbox until I’ve read it and determined if I need to do something with it.
  • It gets electronically filed only when I no longer need to touch it again.
  • My favorite ones are the ones I can answer immediately.

Do you have a hierarchical filing system for your e-mails? I used to. I can’t remember where I filed the stupid thing any more. It goes like this: did I file it under the organization it came from or under the person’s name or according to the topic? I know people who will create copies and file one e-mail in three places. Yikes. I can never remember the logic of my filing system so I’ve simplified it: unread, better known as my Inbox or read, filed in the folder cleverly named as “Read e-mails.” Dazzling.

This is another aspect to my new approach to work: I don’t let e-mails nag or haunt me. They used to—I would drown in e-mail quicksand every Sunday afternoon. I would dive in, send out hundreds and cause e-mail misery for all of my team because even though I said they could ignore them until Monday, they would all, to a person, answer them on Sunday. This did not make them or me happy.

I now ignore e-mails’ siren song. If I want to be unhappy at work, I just listen for Lorelei’s singing and am drawn onto the rocks of my Inbox. I like that I am the captain of my e-mail ship, and only navigate the waters that keep me on an even keel.

What’s your secret to keeping your sanity about e-mail? I’d love to hear it… send me an e-mail at I promise: I will read it!

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