Stuck in email overload? - 14 November 2019

Stuck in email overload?

This is how to get your life back...

Sure, email is a modern communication miracle. But email overload is a very real issue. Whilst technology has made work so much easier, saving us from having to have time-sapping face to face conversations, emails – be they work or personal – come with some serious pitfalls.

Our inboxes can rule our lives. We are crushed under sheer volume of emails received on a daily basis. That's 269 billion a day (149,513 every minute)! The average person spends a whopping 13 hours a week just dealing with emails. And, as more of us move over to remote working, the reliance on email is only growing.

A tad dramatic? Maybe. But being overloaded by emails can have very real health consequences. Emails are causing stress; so much so that health warnings have been issued by medical researchers. Our workaholic tendencies and the instant availability of email is dragging us into a stress-inducing, near-pathological set of behaviours.

Checking our emails kicks our primal fight or flight reactions into life, as our brain anticipates what issues might be lurking in the inbox. Your body reacts by telling the adrenal glands to make more of your main stress hormone, cortisol. In turn, your blood pressure and heart rate increase.

Delving into our inboxes several times a day puts your cortisol levels in a see-saw triggering stress-responses, part of which is anxiety and fear and reducing our ability to make rational logical choices. This has many detrimental physical and mental effects on our health.

On top of the stress, it's easy to get waylaid at the expense of more important priorities, thereby reducing productivity. It's pretty easy to see why more stress and less productivity will make you less effective at work.

So if this in any way resembles how you are feeling, perhaps it's worth trying to make a few changes:


The sheer volume in your inbox, coupled with the anxiety of missing something important is a serious cause of stress. All major email programs give you the tools to filter your emails into folders.

Setting up rules will clear your inbox, reduce admin time and help you focus on the emails that need the most attention. For example, you can create rules for 'high priority' emails so you don't miss them in the general melee or create folders for specific clients so you never miss a beat in that communication thread.

Think of your inbox as a holding pen before emails are sorted into other folders.


So many services, trials and apps require you to add an email address to use them. Your inbox becomes overrun with subscription emails that you have no need for. Try to set aside some time to banish these subscriptions. This should seriously reduce your daily count.

Services like Unlistr can help you to unsubscribe en masse in a few easy steps.


As soon as you hook up your email accounts to your phone, you're connected 24/7. The urge to constantly check our inbox is huge and often unavoidable. Notifications exacerbate the problem.

Recent studies have shown that 20% of people check their emails while on holiday, and 40% would take a break on a long car journey dive into their inbox.

At a minimum, turn off notifications for new messages or, even better; your phone. Very few things are so important that they need responding to immediately. If it's important people will call you.


In the battle against your inbox, the delete button is your greatest weapon! Don't be afraid to delete messages that appear to be of no value. Again, if things are really important that person will find a way to get the information to you.


Is the message urgent? Can they wait? We're all addicted to a constant flow of messages and often a response is just not necessary. Many of us are coming off email altogether by using instant messaging and the like.


Email isn't necessarily the most efficient method of communicating.

For working directly with team members, keeping track of projects and sharing ideas services like Slack, Trello and Monday have changed the game. These APPs incorporate live messaging, folders and file sharing. And if they're used correctly, can speed up a project and maintain an easy to follow audit trail.

Consider using Skype to reduce the amount of conversational chat via email. Or create a WhatsApp group to communicate with a team for a project.

Here's to surviving email overload and getting your life back. You'll be in good company. The Annual Consumer Email Report back in 2017 suggested a trend of people getting on top of their email, finding that 27% checked emails less than they used to and 26% saying they no longer check emails out of work hours.

Join that statistic and drop the email stress!

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