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182,900,000,000 emails.

182.9 billion.

That’s more than 25 emails per every human mind on the planet.

And that’s just what we send in one day (PDF).

Given the crazy amount of emails that are sent and received every day, it’s no wonder that this electronic communication has become too hard to handle for so many of us. But don’t worry, here are some productivity secrets that can help you tame the beast.

Use Canned Responses

Canned-Responses

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I can’t stress the importance of this one. Chances are, you reply to many emails in the same way, whether it’s a refusal of a submission, acknowledging a colleague’s efforts or a simple greeting. The one thing you absolutely need to do is to create canned responses for your most oft-used emails.

It’s really easy to set up canned responses in Gmail Email Faster & Better With Canned Responses Email Faster & Better With Canned Responses Don’t have time to cook lunch? No problem, grab a can. Need some camping chow that won’t go bad? Easy, get some canned food. Tired of typing the same email replies? Try canned emails! Think... Read More or any other email client. No matter how fast a typist you are, you aren’t faster than two clicks of your mouse, right? Save yourself some time and do this now.

Set Up Filters & Labels/Folders

Gmail-labels-filters
The best way to tackle an overload is to first sort it out. That means using filters and labels/folders in your inbox. Outlook has folders, Gmail has labels, and both have filters you can set up to auto-route your email to these folders and labels. You can set up advanced filters 5 Gmail Filters to Help Prioritize & Organize Your Inbox 5 Gmail Filters to Help Prioritize & Organize Your Inbox What filters should each and every person have in their arsenal so that their inbox is as orderly as mine? I'm here to help you get started in setting up your first five filters, or... Read More in Gmail according to your custom needs. In fact, Gmail offers to automatically bring some order to your email 6 Ways To Reclaim Your Email Inbox 6 Ways To Reclaim Your Email Inbox Is there anything else that’s as useful, prevalent, and frustrating as an email inbox? It’s been around forever and we keep using it, and as long as we keep using it, people like me will... Read More with its new Priority Inbox.

They take some time to set up and categorize well, and the first month requires constant input from you. But it’s well worth your time in the long run. Don’t just hurriedly put things under labels and filters, think about it and categorize well because this is the automation your inbox will use for the rest of your life.

I find it best to do to a 3-step check before you filter an email:

  1. Ask yourself what the best label/folder name (whether existing or not) would be for this message.
  2. Check if that name already exists, and if not, create it.
  3. Ask yourself if that name should be a separate entity or sub-categorised under one of the existing folders.

Do this regularly and your inbox will be magically cleaner.

Take Your To-Do List Elsewhere

no-to-do-lists-in-email

Say it with me folks: “Your inbox is not your to-do list.” Google’s Vivek Haldar wrote about this a while back and I couldn’t agree more. Here’s Haldar’s take:

Email is a terrible place for a todo list. I really don’t get how one can tack on GTD to email. An email is not actionable. Once you read it and understand it, you might end up with a clear action, but your inbox is not the place to shove it.

Your email is about communication, so let it be about that. There are plenty of fantastic apps for to-do lists, and I’d highly recommend Any.do Get Your To-Do List Done In Style With Any.DO For Android Get Your To-Do List Done In Style With Any.DO For Android To-do lists are not necessarily the most exciting applications ever, and the UI for most Android apps is often on the bland side. That’s the starting point for Any.DO, and it takes these two dull... Read More or Wunderlist Wunderlist - The Best To-Do List Application On The iPhone [iOS] Wunderlist - The Best To-Do List Application On The iPhone [iOS] Wunderlist is one of the simplest ways to keep track of what you need to do. It has an elegant user interface that just makes sense. Anyone can pick it up and figure out how... Read More .

Unsubscribe From Junk

Unsubscribe-search-in-gmail

You won’t believe how many newsletters and other junk email is clogging up your inbox, despite a spam filter. And once clutter starts building up, it can quickly get out of control.To stop it in its tracks, you need to start unsubscribing and there’s one really easy trick to do that.

In your email client, just search for the word “unsubscribe”. It’s appended at the end of every newsletter, so you will suddenly see a list of all the mass mails in your inbox. Now just open them one by one and unsubscribe. I recommend using Gmail’s Preview Pane when you do this to speed things up.

There are also add-ons and services to quickly unsubscribe from mailing lists Clear Out Your Inbox: Quickly Unsubscribe From Multiple Newsletters With These Tools Clear Out Your Inbox: Quickly Unsubscribe From Multiple Newsletters With These Tools Unsubscribing from newsletters is about more than just spam. Most of the newsletters that fill our inbox are not selling medicine or offering prize money – they’re genuine newsletters from trusted companies we ourselves subscribed... Read More or bunch them up into email digests.

The Golden Question To Ask Each Email

Email-Overload

This is the biggie and it’s what has helped me keep on top of my inbox overload over the past year. BBC Future’s Tom Stafford offered one golden question to ask yourself when opening any message:

“If I didn’t have this information in my inbox, would I go out looking for it?”

If the answer is no, don’t hit reply or hit delete without even opening it. It’s that simple. No, you aren’t going to miss out on anything huge — I’ve been doing it for a year and it actually works. Here’s Stafford’s explanation for it:

Nowhere is this more apparent than the group email and the avalanche of replies that invariably ensues. Strike back by reminding yourself that not all email has to be replied to, that lots of issues will be – and should be – dealt with by other people. Ask yourself: “If I didn’t have this information in my inbox, would I go out looking for it?” Most of the time the answer is probably “no”, and that’s a sign that someone else is controlling your attention.

Share Your Email Hacks

Everyone has their own email hacks to manage the clutter and the best way to learn is by sharing them. We also have our own Gmail Guide for Everyone. It helps, as does the advice from pro users. If Stafford hadn’t written that article, I would still be drowning in messages and I’m forever grateful to him for that.

So tell me, how do you handle your email overload 3 Tips To Deal With Email Overload In Gmail [Show & Tell] 3 Tips To Deal With Email Overload In Gmail [Show & Tell] Most of us suffer from information overload. Being overwhelmed with private emails may not be a big issue and ignoring half the emails is actually acceptable to a certain degree. In a professional life however,... Read More ? There are no wrong answers here, folks.

Image Credits: Pete, Lars Plougmann

  1. Maryon Jeane
    December 11, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    I attach individual sound files to important e-mails. This means that I am never tempted to keep checking my e-mail to see if anything important or expected has come in - and doing that is a great time-waster. I use PopTray to check my e-mail and play sound files, and I've also set up other filters in there too (for example, for those e-mails which don't in reality allow you to unsubscribe - they are simply deleted from the server).

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