Getting a grip on email chaos

by Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

It’s been almost one week since I stared my email inefficiency in the face, and I have to say, I’m already doing better. Here are some of my thoughts since I devised a new plan:

Photo by Coco Sunday

Problem #1: My husband and I share one particular e-mail account (it’s work related), and we were always back-tracking and marking emails as “unread” when we knew the other person needing to see one. Very annoying. Solution: I’ve now redirected said email account to my Gmail account. I delete any emails for him because I know he’ll see them in iMail (the mail client he’s still using); he deletes any emails for me on his iMail. We just take care of our own emails. So far, this system works fairly well.

Problem #2: I would check iMail anytime I heard it “ding,” telling me I had received a new message. It would distract me from whatever I was doing. Solution: I am forcing myself to close Gmail whenever I’m done using it, so my email isn’t up at all. It’s helping me curb distraction when I’m focused on something else, and I’m actually better at managing my email time, knowing I’ll close the window when I’m done.

Problem #3: I’d read emails, then wait until I had more time to reply to them. This resulted in a backlog of too many emails to ever have time for responding. An in-box full of emails needing a response is not a pretty thing. Solution: I only read emails when I can give them at least a five sentence response. If I don’t have time for that, I leave it unread. If it seems urgent, then I’ll close out what I was working on and give that email my full attention. If it’s not urgent, then it can wait. The world won’t stop.

Initial Observations – It’s much harder to close out my Gmail account than I thought it would be. I don’t really consider myself an email addict, yet it was difficult to not just leave it up in case something “important” landed in my in-box. That was surprising to me. I’m also pleasantly surprised at how freeing it is to see an empty in-box. Before, I didn’t think it was a big deal to leave emails in my in-box, but it just got overwhelming to see all those conversations vying for my attention. No longer.

I’m going to closely monitor my email habits for one more week, and then I’ll switch my focused attention on a new habit on my list – while still keeping up with my new email system, of course.

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  1. I too am an ’email addict’! I have gmail and even downloaded the notifier so that I could see anytime I got a new email. I am slooowly working on this! I closed the notifier and am trying to only check my email a couple times a day. A good tip with gmail, if there is something that I need to come back to later, I star it and then I know the next time I have the time to answer it, I go to the starred items first!

    Great post and good luck!

    Angie’s last blog post..The Calorie Burner

  2. These are great suggestions for email. I struggle with problem #3 — I always think if I wait to respond later, then I’ll have more time to write a better response. Lately I’ve figured out that I need to just write a shorter response that will be far from perfect. At least that way I can avoid having to send “sorry I meant to respond a long time ago…”

    Rachel’s last blog post..Saving big money with little effort

  3. @Angie – Yeah, I like the star feature on Gmail, too. Every day I find more and more I like about Gmail.

    @Rachel – Oh, that is so me. I always think I’ll write a great, thorough email, when really, I should only make the time for a few sentences because that’s all that’s needed.

  4. I am so bad at handling my email. I use gmail (I have a couple of accounts) which helps, but I need a better plan for managing it for sure.

    Audra Maries last blog post..Bloggy Giveaway Hangover Anyone

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