How to Handle Email Overload? Clever Tips that Works

If I don’t check my email a single day, I will spend the next day climbing Mt. Email, replying to queries/sorting out (un)important emails etc. etc.

Google recently launched Priority Inbox, that delivers only the ‘important’ emails (decided by G’s algo, which in most of the cases are true) to your inbox, keeping the noise aside. Even after this, you will have to reply to maybe, a significant number of emails.
Email overload, to me is not about the number of emails hitting the Inbox – but is more of a lack of disciplined approach towards ‘communication‘.

If you are in the same boat figuring out how to handle email overload , let me share a few great tips that will just work.

Follow the five.sentence.es policy

I came across this policy 2 years back and have been following it religiously. It really helps to cut the noise out and the discipline once inculcated, stays on forever.

Treat all email responses like SMS text messages, using a set number of letters per response.
five.sentenc.es is a personal policy that all email responses regardless of recipient or subject will be five sentences or less. It’s that simple – source

[see other policies like two.sentenc.es, three.sentenc.es, and four.sentenc.es. Choose one of them and stick to it.]

Kevin Rose (Digg founder) also adds (a very cool advice):

Type “Sent from iPhone” under your short responses.  People don’t expect long responses when you’re on your phone.

If you and I have ever interacted on email, you probably would have noticed my ’3-4′ sentences replies :).

Use Priority Inbox as an Excuse

Few emails are important for sender to get a reply, but need not be important for you to reply (asap).

If you are on Gmail/Google Apps, use Priority Inbox as an excuse (by now, it’s rolled out to everybody I believe).
Feel free to blame Google for considering sender’s email unimportant [“how can they do this? they still need to work on the algo! Gmail sucks man! “]

Zero Inbox Principle

The most difficult-yet-effective advice on managing email overload, Zero Inbox principle mandates that you define and stick to a discipline.

First and foremost, Zero Inbox doesn’t mean that you need to delete all the emails in your inbox. All it means is that you need to ‘process’ emails effectively and frequently.

Watch these two videos (David Allen and Merlin Mann of Getting Things Done) for a practical perspective on Zero Inbox and how to achieve nirvana.






What’s most important about email overload is to accept that you are responsible for bringing one. Conversations that can go over the phone are unnecessarily discussed over the email and similarly, a small issue gets attention of numerous threads.

Be good to yourself by bringing  an inherent understanding that email is a communication tool and there are better substitutes and alternative available in the world.

What’s your opinion? How do you handle email overload?

Recommended Read : 5 Basic Email Etiquettes for Entrepreneurs