It’s not surprising that many people, especially web workers, experience email fatigue. After all, spending hours each day reading and replying to emails can prevent you from spending more time on the work that you actually have to do (unless sending and receiving emails is your line of work).
Don’t get me wrong, I love email and it is one of my favorite ways to communicate. However, we shouldn’t spend more time on it than we have to. Thankfully, there are simple ways to reduce the unnecessary emails we receive.
Tighten spam protection. Researchers say that in the first quarter of 2008, 92.3% of all email was classified as spam. As web workers, we’re especially prone to email spam since we use email as our primary communication tool. WWD Editor Judi Sohn has written an extensive guide on how to reduce incoming email spam. In that article, she discusses spam filtering for web based email, as well as server-side and client-side filtering. Samuel Dean has also compiled additional anti-spam tools you can use.
Turn off social networking notifications. If you have accounts at social networking sites, it’s likely that you’re receiving emails whenever a contact updates their profile or sends you a private message. Take advantage of the email notification settings available for each service, and customize them so you’ll only receive the updates you want to receive. Personally, I’ve completely eliminated all the emails I receive from Facebook and other social networking sites. I just check the updates on the sites themselves.
One reason why I prefer to check updates on the sites themselves is so that I can batch-process those tasks. Receiving real-time email notifications for every private message or contact update makes me want to visit those sites as soon as possible – resulting in multiple visits to Facebook or LinkedIn every few hours.
Reduce outgoing email. It follows that the more email you send, the more email you’ll receive. This is why I prefer to address multiple related issues in one email. For example, if I want to send Judi the latest WWD post I wrote, I will also use that email to tell her about my writing schedule for the coming weeks. This means that if she’ll respond to both issues, she’ll just send her response in a single email. Doing this reduces the number of emails I receive. Plus, the recipient will appreciate that you don’t want to waste their time.
Let me point out that this doesn’t work for all recipients. Some of my contacts don’t seem to read the entire email (which is short to begin with) and only respond to the last sentence I wrote. Either talk to them about this or be prepared to send one email for each question or point you want to address.
Keep temporary subscriptions away from your main email account. Sometimes there’s a web app you want to try or an article you want to read from a free subscription-based website. However, the downside to signing up for most of those services is that they might continuously send you messages – even after you’ve ‘unsubscribed’. In these cases, it’s best to use a throwaway email address such as Mailinator or Guerrilla Mail for the sign-up process.
Do you receive too much email? How do you deal with it?