One issue I’ve noticed helping several people is they have hundreds, in some cases thousands, of emails in their inbox. And a lot of those emails are marked unread.
I don’t know how people can operate in that environment. Your goal should be an empty inbox.
There’s a well known time management maxim for paperwork—handle it once. Read it, deal with it and either file it (if it’s important) or delete it. I file most legitimate emails, using Microsoft desktop search to find them later. Any email I can’t deal with immediately (usually only one or two in any day), I put in a folder “To Act On.” That folder I scan each day the same time I deal with spam.
To reduce the number of emails you have to deal with, make sure your junk mail filters are turned on. Since they can trap legitimate emails you still need to check the junk mail folder, just in case. But if you sort that folder by who the email is addressed to you can skip looking at any email not sent to your email address(s). If spam gets really out of hand, you might want to ask your hosting service if they can enable a feature called Boxtrapper. It is a simple challenge system that requires any unknown person sending you an email to respond by simply replying to the challenge message.
Of course if you are so completely behind in your inbox you might consider “email bankruptcy.” Set up a temporary rule to respond to any email in your inbox that you can’t deal with your email and are deleting all your emails… Then start over and keep up this time.
Gregg Marshall, CPMR, CSP, is a speaker, author and consultant. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit his website at http://www.repconnection.com.