Shutting Off The E-mail Firehose

how to overcome e-mail overload
The following eight steps will help you overcome e-mail overload.

1. Set up an auto-responder, kindly thanking them for their email, and setting reasonable expectations about a reply timeframe.

Thanks for your e-mail. I have received it and will respond as soon as possible.  In an effort to provide better customer service and higher quality work, I only check my email twice a day.

If you require immediate assistance, please contact and my team will be able to take care of your needs and alert me to urgent issues.

2. Disable auto-fetch/push/email checking, and only check your email manually. Do this on your desktop and on your mobile device.

3. Undo notifications, sounds, badges, and alerts on your mobile device. You don’t need it there.

4. Check your e-mail at scheduled intervals. Depending on how your inter office communication works, this might vary. We’re experimenting in our office with three-times-daily e-mail checking. Beginning of business, after lunch, and end of day. I know offices and individuals who need to check on the hour*.

The exception to this for Mere is support staff monitoring the “hotline”.

Pro-tip: we use Slack rather than email for immediate inter-office communication. Tasks are still communicated by e-mail.

5. Zero your inbox, immediately. Like right now. Do it. No, seriously.

6. Use the inbox-zero method and zero your inbox every time you check it. This requires a trusted task management system. I suggest GTD.

7. Unsubscribe from all non-mission-critical email lists immediately. Don’t filter them, don’t file them, you don’t need them. If you need non-mission-crticial information, go get it. Don’t let someone deliver it to you. If you absolutely must have it available to you, do not set up a filter for it. It is mission critical and you should process it like all other e-mail.

8. Don’t panic. You are probably (literally, physically) addicted to e-mail checking. This system may cause withdrawal symptoms. It did for me. You’ll be okay.

9. Relax. The world will not end if an e-mail sits for a few hours. (Probably.) You will settle into a rhythm of answering every necessary e-mail in a much more rapid and accurate fashion than ever before. The very thing you are anxious about in this new system is the very thing you were terrible at before, will continue to get worse at, and are now fixing

Say it to yourself: not checking e-mail constantly will make me a better e-mail checker.

* If you feel you must  check your e-mail more frequently than hourly, understand that you are basically functioning as a switchboard operator, and not being productive with your other (real?) work. The solution here is more likely a shift in organizational/operational culture, or a reality check for yourself. Give hourly a try and see how that feels. Work your way up from there. Every two hours, three hours, thrice daily.




2 responses to “Shutting Off The E-mail Firehose”

  1. Alden Avatar

    (2) is a nightmare with Outlook, unfortunately… Exchange makes this really hard.

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