How to handle Email Overload

Source: WikipediaI’m getting way too many emails daily and I’ve been pulling my hair on how to handle it.  Finally, I turned to blogosphere for advise and found some good tips.

Using Outlook effectively by Flexible learning community

A blog by Itzy Sabo analyzes the causes of email overload, discusses strategies to cope with the constant bombardment, and provides practical tips for getting the most out of our email programs

ReadWriteWeb Analyzes Five Methodologies to Deal with Email Overload 

In response to Email Consumes Us by Jeremiah, Chris Grayson commented on how he has mastered email management


I have mastered email management (I’m also a bit OCD).

I set up multiple accounts that all come in to the same email client, but this helps filter.

I’m very specific about who gets what email address.

Only friends, family and active business associates get my main email address that I protect.

I have an “events@” email address that I use to sign up for Concert Notifications, Art Gallery Openings, etc.

I have a generic account I use to sign up for stuff online (that’s the one I also use for blog posts like this).

I have another one for “contact me” on my website and a different one for “contact me” on my blog.

FOR MY EMAIL CLIENT I USE APPLE MAIL, but I know similar filters exist for other email apps. In Apple Mail they are called rules.

I HAVE SET UP 48 RULES. Many rules then have as many as 20 or more parameters. Parameters usually include “FROM”, though ones set up for spam also have hundred of parameters for words used in subject lines.

When an email comes from a domain of one of my clients, it is automatically backlit with a RED bar (emails from my wife come in red text).

Emails from any social media site that I’m a member of come in with the text labeled by the color of that site’s branding (teal blue for Linked[in], bright blue for Facebook) and are then further filtered into a folder of Social Media website notifications.

All “Second tier” communication gets further filtered into a folder in the left panel. I have 36 folders. About half of them are there for automated filtering. Other, like my “family” folder, I move messages to manually after I have read them.

If the email comes from a link on any of my own websites, it is highlighted in yellow.

I have filters set up for my attorney, my bank, my accountant, etc.

Therefore, only “important” emails are seen in my main in-box, and those are all colored coded based on who they are from. At a glance, I can tell if there is something actionable I need to attend to.

If a piece of spam does manage to get through my many layers of spam filtering, I use the “bounce” feature, so to spammers my account(s) appear to be dead addresses.

If I’m hunkered down doing work, I shut everything down. Email IM, phone on vibrate and screened, put on headphones and get to work. Otherwise I’m pretty accessible.

People I do business with, and friends, are pretty good about knowing what info should be emailed, when to IM or TXT, and when is best to just pick up the phone. Email me for anything that needs to be documented or scheduled, IM me if you see I’m online or otherwise TXT me with on-the-fly updates/info, and call me if you need to discuss, or if there is an emergency. Generally these things seems like common sense to me, and I guess my friends and clients are smart people because they all seem to practice these procedures without being told or explained.

I’ve been practicing this kind of email management for many years. I did not sit down one day and create all of these rules, filters and folders. I started doing so years and years ago, and my system has just evolved with my needs. This explains the complexity. To sit down and set this up from scratch might involve a couple hours analyzing what kinds of emails you get from who and how to prioritize and best organizing them. A half day of setting up rules, and a few days of tweaking.” 

All hail Chris!


About Sachendra Yadav

Mobilist and Social Media enthusiast
This entry was posted in Email and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to How to handle Email Overload

  1. Well, I’m glad I was able to be of assistance. I would like to reiterate, I did not sit down, dream all this up, and create all the filtering one afternoon. As a consultant, I deal with a lot of different clients, and I also use email to sign up for a lot of stuff. It occurred to me that signing up for things was a likely source of getting on spam lists, so I chose, a long time ago, not to use my regular account. When I needed a way to make client emails stand out, I began labeling them red. I had lots of notifications coming from things I had signed up for that were cluttering my inbox, so I decided that live music notifications should be one color, newsletters should be another, and art gallery openings should be another.

    I noticed that most people that contact me through my website or blog were people seeking my expertise that wished to do business. Hey, that important, quick, backlight those in yellow like a highlighter marker.

    And so on and so forth.

    After doing this for several years, creating new filters as new situations came up, I eventually evolved a system that works pretty well for me.

    In all fairness, all I’m doing is using the label, rule and filter features as they were intended by the software developers. Perhaps they do not do enough to educate their users on the features, because few seem to know they are there, or take the time to set them up (which are honestly quite easy).

    I was visiting a client’s office just about 2 weeks ago, and a fellow started complaining about sifting through all him emails, afraid he would miss something important buried in all the clutter. He was on a Mac, and using the same Apple Mail app that I use. I saw that every email was just regular black text. I asked why he didn’t set up some rules and filters. He didn’t even know about the feature. When I showed him, and walked him through setting one up, he was blown away. I think it’s just an awareness thing.

  2. ankur says:

    Few simple tips.
    1. create rules.
    2. have a good spam filter on server.
    3. i now use for getting temp email addresses to register at any site.
    4. try not setting up auto reply- it is one of the best ways to confirm that your email address is active to spammers.
    5. For my yahoo email, i find that reporting spam emails ensure that i dont recieve much spam now, it was a big problem on it, owing to be a very old account.

  3. Personally to effectively cope with the incoming streams of information including e-mail, I’m using my summarization application. At a click of a button I get to see the essential keywords and the most important sentences. Over period of time I found that looking at the instant information capsules gives me quite useful insight and saves me a lot of time. If you would like to try out summarization this is the product link: Context Organizer from Context Discovery Inc.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s