Last week we talked about our “growing” email problem. The average size of an individual email as well as the overall volume has increased substantially over the years, and some parts of the email technology platform have changed to accommodate that. In other critical areas it has only barely kept pace or fallen woefully behind. Though it’s changed its look over the years, Outlook still works essentially the same way it did nearly 20 years ago. And while we have more ways to read our email now with the proliferation of mobile devices and cellular data networks, I rarely come across a business professional who isn’t struggling to stay afloat in the growing email tide.
So how do we address this weighty issue?
First off, reduce the volume in any way you can:
- Better spam filters – the best ones work at the server level, and don’t rely on your local email client. If you are using a local spam filter on top of your provider’s “filter”, you need to adjust the settings on the server side so they never get delivered, or change providers. It’s a hassle, but a good spam filter will make it all worthwhile.
- Ditch the mailing lists – if you spend more time shuffling unread newsletters into the “later” folder, you should either look at subscribing to a less frequent digest, or unsubscribe altogether. Ironic advice coming from someone who sends a newsletter. Hopefully because you are reading this, our newsletter makes the cut.
- Separate business and personal – modern email clients and mobile devices allow you to stay on top of multiple email accounts, so there’s no good reason to keep everything in the same mailbox. Don’t go hog wild (5 separate mailboxes is just as bad as single overstuffed box), but if you are using your business mailbox for everything, you really need to move the personal stuff to a separate email account.
- Delete, don’t archive – once you get over the initial fear of throwing away an email permanently, you may find it amazingly liberating and a great way to reduce stress. Be mindful of your company’s retention policy and business practices, but delete anything that isn’t critical. Because it’s “virtual”, email becomes a convenient way for our “inner hoarder” to manifest itself. As with anything hoarded, the volume rapid overtakes any benefit gained from keeping the stuff around. Be merciless, even cruel, and give your delete key a solid workout.
A lot of you have heard this advice before (probably from me), but it always bears repeating. The only way to drink from a firehose is to reduce the pressure. Getting in front of your daily email workload will grant you time to focus on the next task: sorting, filing and putting to use the email you do decide to keep.
Make sure to stop in next week for the final part of our series on taming the email retention beast!
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net