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Time Management to Prevent Email Overload

Posted Saturday April 2nd, 2016, 11:54 am by

The key is not to prioritise what’s on your schedule but to schedule your priorities.

Stephen Covey

You decided not to allow the arrival of each new email to distract you and instead deal with them in batches. What is the best way to manage your time when dealing with email is a question I am often asked. The most important decision is how much time to allocate before suffering email overload. Fifteen to sixty minutes is a good yardstick. Be ruthless and don’t just keep going, otherwise other important tasks will not be done.

You may need to make a meeting with yourself to deal with your email. If you have a day of meetings you will need to deal with them in the margins.

The key is to review and prioritise, based on the email’s subject-line, and decide what is either urgent or important and deal with

these first.

  1.  Swiss Cheese Approach. A good approach for busy days. Deal just with the important emails in small chunks (maybe between meetings). This way you make inroads into what otherwise feels like a daunting task – a bulging inbox. The Swiss Cheese approach was invented by Alan Lakein in his book ‘How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life’.

2. Pomodoro. Allocate a specific block of time which you then break up into smaller chunks, traditionally of 25 minutes.

Pomodoro – Email Overload Time Management

(Smaller chunks also work.) Take a five minute break between each chunk and mark up your progress (eg 10 emails actioned and foldered out of the 30 which need attention).

Invented by Francesco Cirillo (a German designer) he called it Pomodoro because he used a tomato shaped timer and pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato. Keeping check on your time is essential with a conventional watch, Pomodoro timer (but might annoy colleagues) or an app. Click here for a review of some good apps and more help in using the technique.

3. Salami Slicing. Excellent when faced with a chronic attack of email overload. As the name suggest, slice the seemingly impossible task of reaching inbox zero (or at least a clean inbox) into much smaller achievable tasks which can easily be done in little blocks of time often 20 minutes. For example, dealing with meeting invites, responses to requests for information, approvals etc. You can now use the Pomodoro technique to help you.

Which ever technique you adopt, be careful not to leave a seemingly unimportant email which then become both important and urgent as this is a recipe for stress and disaster.

For more tips and advice on time management to prevent email overload see ‘Taking Control of Your Inbox’ or come on one of Mesmo Consultancy’s Brilliant Email Management workshops.

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