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Does your email inbox stress you out? Is it the number of unread messages or the total volume that concerns you?
Some folks have thousands of emails in their inbox, and it doesn't bother them a bit. And that's fine if they're staying informed and are responsive to those who need answers. Although, in today's age of screen sharing on video calls, if others see a large count of unread emails, their credibility may drop a few notches.
For most people, though, that climbing inbox count represents failure. Failure to keep up. Failure to respond. Just failure.
A blog I read from August 2020 states the average office worker receives about 120 emails every workday. That's around 600 emails a week, on average. Some of you might receive many more. It doesn't take long for an inbox to get out of control. And unfortunately, email processing is like laundry, it must be maintained, or the results get ugly fast!
I spoke with someone recently who had 27,000 unread emails in her inbox that dated back as far as 2017. She felt utterly defeated. Staring at that unread number every day was killing her. She also knew the total number was even higher because read messages weren't included in that figure. A few months before, she spent an entire day off from work moving emails from May 2020 into her complicated folder structure and barely made a dent.
When I asked how she'd come to choose May 2020 emails to move, she said it was completely random. She was scrolling back through her endless inbox like a zombie, had enough when she hit May, and just started moving messages. I asked how far back she generally needed to go in her emails to keep up with current tasks and projects. She said no earlier than about January 2021. I asked how often she pulled emails out of the folders she'd created. She replied, rarely.
My heart went out to her. To spend an entire day off shuffling emails into folders and not feeling any benefit had to be painful. The truth is, 80% of what we keep, we never use. She devoted hours of mental energy to organize emails she would likely never reference again. That time could have been spent enjoying her day off with her family.
Her work was sensitive and could have legal implications, so deleting the old emails wasn't an option. After suggesting some email management techniques to use going forward, I recommended she create a folder labeled "2017 to 2020" and move 500 - 1000 messages at a time into that folder, to keep from overwhelming the company's email server. It would be a quick win to bring down the visible count in her inbox, and those messages would still be searchable in the unlikely event she needed to find one.
Her path forward was to not look back. We dealt with what was happening now and implemented a new email management process to prevent this situation from happening again. This will likely result in free time she could use to go back and address those old emails. But I'm optimistic she'll spend that time on more enjoyable pursuits.
Are you overwhelmed by email? Get your Productive Environment Score and together we’ll create a plan just for you. Go to www.newpathpro.com/scorecard.
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