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« My Slides from the Keynote from Making Media Connections | Main | Active Social Media Listening: Inside Your Nonprofit Organization »


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mike dunn

its sort of silly to blame email, i see it as more an issue of how we communicate & prioritize the things we need to get done each day w/ the things we want to get done - for both of those sometimes email might be the best method to utilize, for others it might be a phone call or a video-conference session and for other it might be face-to-face...

how many of us have be cornered at some event by a long talker who doesn't pickup the fact that we want to end the conversation and move on so they keep droning on to the point were we need to be rude to get away from them and on w/ our lives - that scenario is a complete time suck and has probably been happening since the stone-ages - prior to email ;)

just say'n like w/ the long talker, email is only evil if you let it...

Sarah Stewart

I love my email - wouldn't be without it. I monitor it all the time so I don't get behind with it, even on holiday. I'm sure thats not healthy, but it works for me. cheers Sarah

Scarlett Swerdlow

I have an Inbox @ Zero method that I like. When a message comes in, I first categorize by project; categories include newsletter, advocacy, technology, intern, etc., about 15 in total. After I categorize the message, I delete it if it's truly, surely unimportant (like the reply all "Thanks!" Otherwise, it goes in one of three folders: To Do (I need to do something), Hold (I'm waiting on someone else to do something), or Archive (I can probably delete it, but I'll hold on to it for a few months just to be sure). Then, every once in a while, I go through the Archive and do a mass delete.

This method keeps my Inbox at zero, plus I find I'm more on top of my email than my colleagues. I especially like the Hold folder. About once a week I look through it to clean it up, and often I follow up with someone about something, and it turns out they had forgotten to do it or to tell me it was complete. I think it makes me seem quite responsible :)

I started this method in January when I started my job at the Illinois Arts Alliance. I didn't really have a method at previous jobs and made the mistake of thinking of my Inbox as a to do list. I wish I had known about email bankruptcy then!

Nathan Zeldes

Clearly different people have different ways to cope with their Inbox, as diverse as the people themselves are. Unfortunately many people don't manage to cope at all - I'm always amazed by how many people just accept the situation as something inevitable. One reason we founded the Information Overload Research Group is to help raise awareness of the problem - and to drive the development of solutions people can choose fro,.

Maryann Devine

I use GTD and my inbox is always empty. It's a good feeling.

Beth, in your tweet about this post, you used the word "connectedness." For me, the struggle isn't about info overload and the frustration that comes with the constant demands, requests, and questions that come via email, but the need for connection, both on a personal and professional level. I'll sacrifice a bit of productivity to try to keep relationships going -- as a pretty shy person, it's the relationship-building is the challenge for me.

Amy Lenzo

I love this post, Beth, as the subject is of great interest to me and the comments are wonderful as well.

I'm one of those over-achiever types :-) and my inbox is usually empty too, but it's because I go through every one of them as they come in and respond, file, or delete. It takes an enormous amount of energy, but like Maryanne I feel the effort is crucial to building and maintaining my relationships. I also like the "clean" feeling of dealing with things immediately, as they come up.

My stumbling block is time and obsession. Once I start with my email, which I usually do first thing, I find it very difficult to stop. Especially if it's one of those email flurry days. It can literally take 6-8 hours of my day, depending on what's in there and what needs to be done in response. This is time I quite often need to be spending on other projects which should have priority.

The most effective solution I've found to this challenge is two-fold. First, every morning BEFORE I open my computer (I work at home) I take what I call a "Beauty Walk". I go outside and walk - for at least 1/2 hour, but it can be longer - and notice what's around me, acknowledging beauty where I see it by breathing it in and noting it (sometimes silently, sometimes with my camera or words to be transcribed in my blog). In that relaxing mental space I also think about my priorities for the day, and set realistic expectations for what I can actually do in the time I have.

Then, if there are project deadlines to meet or simple discreet projects I need to finish that day that would be easier to polish off without distraction, I'll do them first, before I ever open my email client. This isn't easy, but I've trained myself to do it and it works quite well for me.

I often try to give myself a limited time for email, once I do start in on it, but that's definitely harder. The file and do it later strategy doesn't work for me at all because "later" never opens up. I just feel clogged and blocked, with a general sense that I can never catch up with myself. I feel the stress in my body and it distracts me mentally, so that's no good at all.

I've never even considered the "email bankruptcy" route, except for some overflowing mailing list conversation after a holiday, and even then I find it hard not to know what's going on. :-)

What an interesting new world we've created for ourselves, eh?

Donnie Peterson

In my own research, I have discovered that 90% of a manager's time is spent communicating to any one of 13 different types of groups or individuals. [The case study is of a middle manager in the for-profit sector, but you get my point right?] Without sounding naive, what's the big deal about 41% of time spent on email? Its asynchronous, (meaning it can serve you at your convenience) its a retrievable record for legal protection and strategic planning, its an art form that entertains as well is informs...

Despite the many problems listed, I think much too much is made of Email's negative consequences and on balance its a good thing. As an experiment, I tried going about 6 months without an Internet Service Provider at my house; I went nuts without it at my fingertips! We live in a new world now and so we must adapt appropriately. Email, don't feel so blue, I got yer back!


Yes, it’s a pain. That’s why I have launched a blog on information overload. Comments are always welcome! Nicolas

Marsha Egan

What alot of people don't realize is that the way they handle their email has become a habit. Habits are hard to change. For those with productive ways to manage their email, that's great. But for the rest of us who do things that sap time from the rest of our lives, the fix can be easy in concept, but time consuming focus is required. It's like dieting. You know the diet you want to use, losing the weight is a different side of the project.

I like to suggest that you view how you handle your inbox, differentiating between "sorting" and "working." When you get your mail outa the postal mailbox, you don't answer it or read all the new magazines right away. You sort it. If you can think of "sorting" the new email you receive, setting diaries for the stuff you won't handle immediately, filing it in a place where you can find it easily, and letting go of your need to handle everything, you could be surprised at the result!

Sarah Durham

I leave my email autochecker set to '5 minutes' to minimize the distraction that comes with constant influx. If I'm doing something that requires focus, I may even dial it down to every 15, 30, or (gulp) 60 minutes.
My strategy to manage the inbox is to:
1. respond and file or delete all the small stuff every day- but not when it comes in unless imperative to do so
2. transfer any tasks that may take longer (like a thoughtful response, etc) to my daily paper 'to do' list, or to Omnifocus- a Mac-based GTD system software tool that I live by.
3. file all non-essential stuff I'd like to read when time allows in a 'read me' folder
4. file all the random stuff I need to keep but don't want cluttering my email box up with (such as travel itineraries or confirmations, for instance) in a 'temp' folder, which I purge periodically

Keeping up with this usually means I have 0-10 emails in my in box, which feels much less stressful than letting them pile up.

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