Email Overload - Coping Strategies

by Terry Johnston

We're here... the information age! Having fun yet? What's that you say.... too much information, finding the spammers are getting the best of you, facing a bloated INBOX everyday, too many friends are sending you those silly jokes and greeting cards, dealing with a mountain of lists and ezines that you spend more time sorting & deleting than reading, can't find that "important" email in the haystack, can't meet those deadlines because you're so preoccupied with sorting out your email?

THIS is the information age? What, pray tell, comes next.... Perhaps "The Information Organization Age" - Bingo!

You've all heard the statistics:
  • Every day 8 billion emails are exchanged on the Internet.
  • By 2005 this figure will increase to 36 billion.
  • 81% of corps. that implemented email did so to improve efficiency .
  • The average email user in business spends at least 2 hours a day dealing with email.
  • According to Internet researcher Jupiter Media Metrix, by 2006 consumers are expected to receive an average of 1,400 pieces of junk e-mail every day!
  • Yada yada yada.


Email organizing software does exist -- check out: and as well as websites that provide information that help with email overload such as and

Coping tips:

For those of you brave individuals who want to take a stab at manual organizing here are some practical, tried and true strategies:


Although most of you have already figured this one out, it's worth mentioning because it's so fundamental to an anti email overload strategy. One way to think of your correspondence is Personal and Public. For instance, you can open webmail accounts (e.g. Hotmail & Yahoo!) for your public, not-so-critical correspondence. This could include registering when you download software and utilities from the net, marketing promotions, chat rooms and message boards. Your Personal address is reserved for higher priority business contacts, friends, relatives and associates. Although I now use email organizing software, hence my need for webmail accounts has dimished dramatically, at my peak I had well over a dozen accounts going. One caveat to this webmail strategy is that both Hotmail and Yahoo! are now applying strict minimum usage rules (they'll close the account if it's not checked in with frequently). Many people apply this strategy using POP accounts.


Help your friends and colleagues cope with their email overload by NOT contributing to it! You know how it goes: "do unto others..." It's the old cause and effect thing. Unless they've expressed an interest, perhaps you can hold back on sending those jokes, greeting cards and CCing them on every-little-bit-of-business. While we're on CCing, it's important for companies to develop a policy on what to CC and to whom. If your company doesn't have a policy in place maybe it's time for you to be the Corporate Hero and...


How many times have you read a message, flagged it for follow-up, came back to it, read it again, perhaps left it until you have more time, came back to it, read it again... then replied. This is not a very efficient use of your valuable time, is it? A great discipline is to deal with the message once. That is to say, once you've committed to reading it, reply right away before you go on to the next message.


That heading was hard for me to write because one of my pet peeves is when people don't reply to me. (I'm getting over it.) The fact is that it's NOT necessary to reply to every message. Especially with those one-word replies... like: Great, Cool, Thanks, Beauty etc. Remember the Golden Rule? Those short, sometimes meaningless, replies are often only contributing to the recipient's email overload.


Most email clients allow you to set up folders. Although limited in scope, people, project and client specific folders can reduce a lot of stress, especially when it comes to finding a message. I know people who religiously go through their Inbox and drag and drop each and every message into a folder (including a trash folder). Time consuming and tedious yes, but in the overall scheme of things folders can make your email existence much easier.


Don't fall prey to the "oldest spamster trick in the book" - don't use the unsubscribe feature in spam messages (not to be confused with Lists and Ezines). Spam marketers and list providers use the unsubscribe feature to qualify email addresses! Do you see the irony?

You can consult with your ISP. More and more ISPs are providing spam filters. You can also forward the spam you get to the FTC. Send it to

I hope these suggestions have brought you some hope. This list, of course, could extend to many more pages but I'd better let you go.... You've got tons of email to deal with!! Happy organizing!

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Terry Johnston is Vice-President of Marketing with Caelo Software Inc.
Caelo develops user-friendly email organizing software

Email Terry
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