How To Manage Email Fatigue & Stop Drowning in Your Inbox
There are many pros of working from home, but one of the biggest cons is the deluge of emails that remote workers have been receiving. According to Microsoft’s latest Work Trend Index, about 40.6 billion more emails were sent in February 2021 compared to February 2020. That might be a leading factor in why 54% of employees feel overworked and 39% feel exhausted.
Fortunately, there are ways to manage this recent phenomenon of “email fatigue.”
Dedicate Specific Times in Your Day To Deal With Emails
LinkedIn career expert Blair Heitmann recommends taking a “block and tackle” approach to dealing with your inbox.
“Multitasking can be challenging,” she said. “Rather than trying to respond to all your emails and organize your entire inbox all at once, block off time throughout your day dedicated to email. This way, you’ll be able to move on to your next task with a clean slate without inbox anxiety.”
Unsubscribe From Newsletters You Don’t Read
You probably don’t actually read more than one or two email newsletters daily, so all of the others you’ve subscribed to are just adding unnecessary clutter to your inbox.
“Consider the ‘unsubscribe’ button,” Heitmann said. “Rather than manually deleting unread newsletters every morning, take an extra 30 seconds to click through to unsubscribe. This will save you time down the road and help declutter your inbox immediately.”
Stop Sending Emails Outside of Work Hours
Responding to emails at all hours of the day and night can negatively affect both you and your co-workers — it prevents you from keeping a work-life balance and it can make the recipient of the email feel like they have to respond after their own day is ended. If you use Microsoft Outlook for your work email, you should take advantage of its built-in tool that will prevent you from doing this.
“Activate Microsoft warning alerts for late-night emails, and encourage your team members to do so as well,” Heitmann said. “The email domain now offers a pop-up prompt during out-of-office hours asking senders to consider emailing in the morning, then conveniently schedules send for after you’ve already had your first cup of coffee.”
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Your inbox will seem less overwhelming when it’s neatly organized and sorted in a way that helps you find what you need quickly.
“Utilize filters or folders to organize and prioritize your inbox,” Heitmann said. “If you receive a ton of spam emails or unwanted newsletters, filter by the word ‘unsubscribe’ to get them out of your unread inbox. You can also set rules to filter and sort your emails by specific colleagues, projects, keywords or distribution lists to help organize further.”
Aim For Inbox Zero
If you have thousands of unread emails, it’s time to start making some cuts. Although getting to “inbox zero” may seem impossible, take steps toward it by methodically sorting through your unread mail.
“Start by searching for important contacts — like your manager or your clients — and prioritize that batch first,” Heitmann said. “Then, identify and search for emails that you can mass delete, like brand emails or outdated, automated responses you no longer need.”
Set Expectations With Your Team
“Be sure to set (and respect) clear boundaries and expectations with your colleagues and managers on email hours and response times,” Heitmann said. “As many of us continue to work from home, it is particularly important to work with your teams to find processes that help the whole team achieve work-life balance.”
And if email is not the best way for you and your co-workers to communicate, let them know and suggest alternatives.
“There are dozens of ways to communicate with colleagues when you’re not in the office together,” Heitmann said. “Ask your team members what the preferred platforms are for urgent requests. While some methods will naturally have a slower expected response time, aligning on the best form of communication for your team will help everyone prioritize incoming and outgoing needs, and alleviate the sense of urgency on every request.”
Avoid Unnecessary Back-and-Forth
There’s nothing worse than an email chain that goes on and on without resolution. A lot of times this can be prevented by being more clear and assertive from the get-go.
“One way to have more productive conversations is to avoid open-ended responses and use declarations instead of questions,” Heitmann said. “For example, rather than say, ‘What time should we meet?’ propose a time and send through a calendar invite. This tactic helps reduce back-and-forth emails and waiting on a reply.”
Take a Break
Another way to combat email fatigue is to simply step away from your inbox.
“Recent Microsoft research shows that taking breaks in between meetings and other work activities such as email allows your brain to reset,” Heitmann said. “Small breaks can prevent stress build-up in your brain and as a result, allow you to be more productive when you are working. Build time into your schedule to take these short breaks and recharge before diving back into email and work.”
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