Now is the time to clean up your inbox

By: Monica Seeley

Date: 23 January 2012

Vacuum cleaner – email cleanup{{}}According to research, 2.8 million emails per second were sent in 2010. Given that incredible figure (I wonder who counted them all), it’s no surprise that email overload is an ever-growing problem.

You probably know the feeling. You start work in the morning by opening your email. It takes an hour – or more – to deal with all the queries in your inbox. And then you seem to spend most of the rest of the day replying to replies to the email you sent first thing. Confusing, isn’t it?

Your inbox is a source of stress

My own data indicates that almost half of us in the UK receive 50 – 70 emails a day. Some people receive 180 or even more! For all the noise about social media becoming the communications channel of choice, the numbers show that business email isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Yet most of us need less than half of the email we receive. Just think of all the pointless one-line replies, the emails you were copied in on out of politeness and, of course, the newsletters, the special offers, the junk, the spam you have no intention of reading but which still takes time and effort to sort through and delete.

Email overload takes up people’s time and causes stress. But there’s another reason businesses need to address this problem: money.

The bottom line to email overload

On average, we each lose an hour a day because of ineffective email use. At an hourly cost of £20, that’s about £4,200 of lost productivity for every single person a year. Does your business really need that in the current economic climate?

Many companies are waking up to this. Volkswagen has taken an extreme route, deciding that the best way to give its people some respite is to block out-of-hours email altogether. Fine, but doesn’t that just move the problem to the next morning rather than solving it completely?

You can do a lot with better planning. Cut down on the number of unnecessary emails you send and be realistic about replying. Take a stand against the culture of replying instantly to everything and instead develop a system to help you identify which emails are important, which can wait, and which should go straight in the bin.

Clean out your inbox next week

Together, we can put an end to email overload. And the work starts right there, in the folder marked ‘inbox’. If you’re willing to give it a go, I can help: my company, Mesmo, is running Clean Out Your Inbox Week – and it starts today!

Together with fellow email expert Marsha Egan I’ll be offering hints, tips and online tools to help you get on top of your email. We’ll explain how to get rid of email noise, what to do to prioritise emails and why email etiquette matters.

It’s completely free and you might even get the chance to win a prize! To get more information and take part, head over to my blog.

Monica Seeley is an email and productivity expert who runs Mesmo. Learn more about email overload and email etiquette on her website.