Do you have tons of messages in your inbox? Did you read a message with the intention to respond later, but then the email gets buried? Have you drawn a blank when someone asks you if you received their email? Or maybe you miss important emails because there are just too many!
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might have “email overwhelm”. You have too many messages or too many irrelevant messages. You don’t have enough time or energy to go through all your emails to figure out what is important and what’s not. As a result, you choose to ignore the problem or get stressed out by it. It can negatively affect your business productivity.
It’s a common problem among business owners and one where a lot of us need help.
Email Overwhelm…It’s a Real Thing!
Here’s what happens. You start a business and think to yourself, “I want all my emails to come to one place so I can manage it.” or “I don’t want to take the time to remember or check multiple email inboxes.” So you create an email address and things go along smoothly in the beginning. Then, your business starts to grow or shift, and you…
- Sign up for people’s newsletters or free opt-in boxes
- Buy products online and get added to the company’s mailing list
- Start signing up for other people’s affiliate programs
- Sell your own products/services online and have customer service inquiries
Now your inbox is cluttered with a lot of stuff you have to sort through and figure out what to do with. Over the years, I’ve come up with 4 simple solutions to tackle email overwhelm and get control of your email inbox.
4 Simple Solutions for Email Overwhelm
1) Block out Designated Times to Check Email
For many people, email is the first thing they check in the morning and the last thing they check before bed. In addition, email can take out a huge chunk of our day. According to a Harvard Business Review article, professionals check their email 15 times per day.
Try blocking out certain hours of the day to deal with emails. If it’s not within those hours, don’t check your email. Focus on the other tasks you have to do.
Turn off email notifications and do not have a tab open in your browser with your inbox all day long. Some people even suggest deleting your email app from your phone so that you are only checking your email while you are in front of your computer during designated hours.
2) Create Different Email Addresses
One reason why it’s a challenge to sort through your emails is that you cannot tell WHY you are getting those emails! You want to read them all, but without knowing under what context the person is sending it to you, it’s hard to know if it’s something you should read right now.
Try setting up a few different email addresses, and use a different First Name for each. Let’s say your name is Jane Smith, and you have a domain called “janesmithdomain.com” and a branded email address @janesmithdomain.com.
For example, you can set up:
Name: JaneOptin Smith
Email Address: [email protected]
When to Use: When you sign up for a newsletter
Name: JaneCustomer Smith
Email Address: [email protected]
When to Use: When you buy a product/service online
Be sure to have these email addresses forwarded to one email inbox. Then you can tell at a quick glance in the “To” line what type of email it is – newsletter, related to a product/service you purchased, customer support, etc.
3) Utilize Filters, Folders, and Flags
Almost every email platform has a way to filter, sort, and organize your emails.
Several mail clients provide folders for storing emails so that your inbox does not become cluttered. Create several folders for specific emails, such as work-related emails, social media notifications, or emails from friends and family. Your inbox is your main folder. On the other hand, some people prefer to keep everything in their inbox and then do a keyword search on what they’re looking for.
Gmail categorizes email messages using labels. You’ll find each label name in Gmail’s sidebar category list, similar to folders. Gmail labels are similar to post-it notes. The emails in your inbox do not move when you assign labels to them. Because of this, a single message may have multiple labels but appear in only one folder.
Gmail filters act as automation rules for handling incoming emails. For each filter, you can specify what criteria you want Gmail to use and which action you want it to take when a message matches these criteria. The rules save you time by automating the process of sorting emails and organizing your inbox.
Flags can be used to help prioritize emails or find certain emails quickly in the future. Gmail has a variety of star colors. Some people use a different colored star for different things.
4) Don’t Be Afraid to Delete, Opt-Out or Unsubscribe
Don’t be afraid to hit delete after you’ve read something. If you do think something is worth keeping or that you might want to refer to it later, just file it away in the appropriate folder. You could also create a folder called “For Later” or “Reference” for miscellaneous emails you want to keep. This will help your inbox stay clutter-free.
Consider opting out of newsletters or marketing emails that are not adding value to your life or your business. Though it can be time-consuming to go through and unsubscribe, you’ll have much fewer emails to have to manage and organize every day. Also, this is a great task to outsource to a Virtual Assistant.
Email overwhelm is the feeling of being completely overwhelmed by your inbox. The number of unread, unsorted, and unanswered emails keeps increasing until the number is so high that you feel stressed when you open your inbox. This can result in wasted time, decreased productivity, missed opportunities or deadlines, and other business-related problems.
How does your inbox look? Are you drowning in emails? If so, you’re accumulating virtual clutter that could be a roadblock to helping you reach your business goals.
You can tackle email clutter and eliminate the overwhelm! Implement one of my strategies above. Pick the easiest one for you to get started.
One final thought…if you do implement great strategies to manage your inbox, be sure to document them so that you can outsource those tasks and grow your business!
(this article first appeared on this site Nov 13, 2010)
What a great idea. My email situation is exactly as you describe. I have it all come to one address and I am suffocating beneath an avalanche of emails.
A great solution to free yourself of email overload.
yes you can still have 1 email address and have all of these forward to that one, but by customizing your name and email address, you can look at the email and know IMMEDIATELY why you are getting it!
It’s helped me a lot!
That is a good idea Christina. You cannot always know where it’s coming from just from the “From” and “Subject” fields. But if you create different “To” fields, then you know exactly where it came from! Thanks.
yes you hit the nail on the head.
You are looking at the “To” fields
Christina, this is a terrific idea. I could even visualize having a [email protected]… or [email protected]… too. Rather than having all sorts of gmail accounts this would really simplify. Thanks for the tip
yep, you just took it one step further with the [email protected] and [email protected]
I should have thought of thst!
glad you did
Gotta love the timing of your post, Christina. I was just thinking about this very issue this morning and now here you are offering a solution. Thanks so much!
yes I’ve been teaching this method to my husband so he can better manage his email too.
It’s simple and does not take a big infrastructure shift at all
Thanks so much Christina. I have heard of other solutions before but none as easy and clear cut to manage as this one. I am going to implement this TODAY!!!
This a going to buy me an hour everyday I bet.
Woo Hoo! you go girl with that extra hour!
Dear Christina —
Thanks for the excellent ideas regarding managing my e-mail. You described my problem of e-mail overwhelm perfectly and the solution you’ve recommended will go a long way toward simplifying my management of it.
yep! I did this for myself and it works like a charm!
It also makes it easier for searching through emails later
This is a great idea and I plan to do it more. Thank you.
A ‘poor man’s’ approach, that I used before getting email set up on my own domain name, was to insert after my name in the email address a “+” followed by different words.
For example if your email address were [email protected] you could have email sent to:
Most email systems recognize this and get it to the recipient, although sometimes you will find that an optin on a webpage won’t recognize it and will make you remove the extra words.
That’s when YOUR idea of having separate emails on your domain would be needed!
I can see that your technique may have issues
But you can then always set up different
Email addresses on gmail
The benefit of your own domain
Is you get the branding benefits
It’s easy to later pass off to staff
As your biz grows
What if you have multiple domains that you run and you use Gmail to manage them? Any ideas on this?
How about: You could set up the four addresses for each domain. Create a filter in each one to forward to your domain’s primary gmail address. That gives you just one gmail account to check for each domain.
OR you can forward ALL email addresses to a primary gmail address and have to check only one account.
Either way, you could think of the forwarded gmail accounts as backup (the search feature on gmail is excellent) in case you accidentally delete important emails.
Does that sound like it would work?
I needed this! This article speaks to me! So simple to do, that I will do it thanks a lot!
Keep up the useful info!
Christina, YOUR emails are always among the first I read. They always have valuable, implementable information. Thank you.
Really enjoyed your session with David Mathison and the Blockbuster Online Success Seminar last week!
thanks for that note.
Let me know what other info/training you would like too
That seems to be a problem with a lot of people and no matter how much you try its quite difficult but like you say this is great because I find that if you get your system to file it – sometimes you never need to see it except for the ones that do matter most.
I think I will have to move over to Gmail – have been contemplating doing tha, even though I use Gmail but Not exclusively
Brilliant solution! I have used the tactic of setting up multiple email accounts and gotten some relief by doing that. However, I do not like having to check all those different email accounts.
As my “primary email” rapidly approaches the 20,000 mark for the second time in 3 years despite heavy daily purging (the saved emails do have a purpose) this looks like a great answer to the challenge.
Many thanks for yet another great tool.
Great article. I never thought about the branding effect, so I have never really used an email through my domain name. I have a couple of accounts that I use just for one thing, like an email address that I use only for twitter. I will start running my business accounts through my domain, thanks for the information.
the more exposure you give your domain name, the better it is for you.
Also, you can then easily pass off the email box to your staff when you are ready to let go of that task.
Here’s my deal, I give my email address to friends and then those friends (including my wife) turn into my biggest SPAMMERS. So, I have to sort through EVERYBODY! Everyone, I MEAN EVERYONE get’s my Yahoo! address UNTIL they prove themselves. Then, I’ll give them an email address for serious communication.
Great article! I’m going to refer people to this article.
Awesome idea, Christina. I’m currently purging my email and looking for a better way to set it up. I have several domain names and your idea will simplify it for me. Thanks for your help!
awesome as usual Christina, and I like the added notes of using [email protected] and [email protected] by Lisa. I am just doing the set up part right now, and that will really help me decide the titles of the email addresses when I get to creating them. Thanks so much
Another great simple strategy – love it!
Christina- This is a great idea.
This is my solution- I wait until my inbox is so full that I can no longer stand it and then I go get another email address:) There is just not enough time when you are busy business building to handle all the email.
I keep saying I am going to apply filters, I do a few, then get off track and back to my bad habits of just letting them pile on until overwhelm kicks in.
Managing Email is definitely not my strength. 🙂
LOL! I’ve done that. Your email gets so full, you just close it and open another one!
Sit down with pen and paper and draw out the different functions of your biz, then create an email address for that function.
It all makes sense with pen and paper
This is along the line of what I’ve been putting together since I first read your post. I have looked at the roles I have in my business and set up addresses for those, such as blogger, student, writer, even rainmaker :). It makes it easier for me to focus on one role at a time. And if the email doesn’t fit in one of my roles, it has no business being there, so I cancel the account and delete the email. I’ll be refining this as I go along, but it’s working well for me so far. Thanks again for the boost!
That is such a great solution. I will start with this today.
Thank you! Perhaps the next helpful article you do will be about how to forward email to another of my email accounts. That’s something else I’d like to know.
Thank you again for another helpful tip!
Another great idea from Christina. Am I the only one that doesn’t know how to go about setting this up? Any help is appreciated in further knowing how to do this.
Pat (and Kathryn)
the first step is understanding the concept, the next one is implementing it.
email forwarders is something you do from your webhosting company.
so contact them to get that setup
Thanks Christina! As always, you have excellent ideas and this one is so simple to implement. I plan to put it into practice today.
Thanks to everyone for all your great comments!
In fact, I have a small addition I will be making to the post:
You should have ONE email address that you use for your email broadcasts, and have that be DIFFERENT from your personal email.
This, again, is then another email box that you can later outsource.
Or, if someone replies to you, you know under what context they are mailing you
I often use what is called a “catch all” account on my sites. It accepts email from any address I use on my url. Then I can just make up an address for each site/contest I sign up for. It all goes to one folder that I sort by the “to” address. And I know when someone has sold my email address and I can auto delete by that address too.
[email protected] was the address I used here for this mailing list…
Any cpanel host should be able to offer you this service.
thanks for sharing.
Yes, I often see email addresses coming through on my email account and I know that is what folks are doing when they sign up for my list.
Thank you for the tip, Christine. What I really like about your posts are that they are really useful and practical. Aside from the tip I’m working towards and Assistant!!
I am confused here…are y’all setting separate email addresses here for each thing or what…slow here lol…
you can either setup a separate email address box, or a separate forwarding email address. The idea is to have separate addresses so that you can fork your email and know WHY someone is mailing you.