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7 Ways to Avoid Inbox Overload 

If you’re a small business owner, you are most likely involved in almost all aspects of your business, which can often result in an overloaded email inbox. In fact, for many business owners, the inbox has gone from being an effective means of communication to a huge source of day-to-day anxiety.

If you get into the office and your first thought is “Oh no, I don’t want to open my inbox!” it’s time to change the unhealthy relationship you have with your email. Here are some strategies that are worth considering.

#1: Manage Communication Expectations

In our world of instant communication, it’s easy to feel obligated to get back to someone right away, but that doesn’t have to be the case with email. Consider that by replying to an email immediately, you are setting a precedent that says you are perpetually available to anyone at any time of day. If you have a systematic approach to your inbox and managing your email (which means prioritizing messages and getting back to them in due course, not all at once) not only will you reaffirm that you’re a busy business owner (which you are!), but you will also manage expectations for communications in the future.

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh said his inbox “felt like a never-ending treadmill”, so he developed the Yesterbox System, where he primarily focuses on the emails he received the day prior.

#2: Stay Out of Your Inbox

In his book The 4 Hour Work Week Method Timothy Ferriss calls email “the greatest interruption in the modern word”, and promotes an avoidance strategy when it comes to your inbox. Ferriss recommends only checking your email twice per day: once at noon, and again at 4pm. And, interestingly enough, he also advises to never check email first thing in the morning - which is exactly what you do, isn’t it?

If you’re interested in testing out this strategy, try an auto-response email template to advise people of your process. In this “Out-of-Inbox” notification you can also provide a way of contacting you in the case of an emergency (but who really uses email in the case of a real emergency?)

"Thank you for your email. I only check my email twice a day, so I appreciate your patience in receiving my reply.”

#3: Establish a Healthy E-mail Culture

Is your team using email as an instant messaging tool? If they are, it’s no wonder you’re feeling overwhelmed! Limiting how email is used within your company is a great way to cut down on inbox overload. Studies have shown that productivity tends to go up when your employees are using instant messaging or internal social network programs (like Skype or Google Chat) instead of email for real-time communication. Don’t be afraid to encourage a “less is more” email policy - everyone’s inbox will benefit.

#4: Avoid Open-Ended Questions in Emails

If you are arranging a meeting time, don’t ask open-ended questions in an email that might result in unnecessary back-and-forth. Instead of writing “Let’s meet this week - when are you free?”, try being more proactive so only one response email is required: “Let’s meet this week. I’m available Monday, Tuesday, or Thursday between 2pm and 5pm. Let me know if any of those times work for you, and if so, which one.”

#5: Embrace the FYI

If you are sending someone an email with the intent of informing or sharing something, start your subject line or the first sentence in the email with “FYI” (for your information) and end your email with “NRN” (No Reply Needed). This can really become a saving grace in avoiding multiple replies when you’re sending something to your whole team.

#6: Unsubscribe or Use

If your inbox is full of subscription-based emails or spam, simply search “unsubscribe” within your account to find all the senders to unsubscribe from. You can also create an account with, that rounds up all subscription-type emails for you to either unsubscribe from or decide on the frequency of your Daily Digest.

#7: Stop Sending Emails

The simplest way to reduce the number of received daily emails is to encourage your team not to use email. At your next team meeting, propose a reduction in the use of email, or maybe just send everyone this funny workflow - I’m sure they will get the hint :)

Email Overload

Do you have your own techniques for avoiding inbox overload?  Tweet at me @MethodCRM

Until next time, 


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LaCrews said:

Google filters are your friend.

December 13, 2013 11:43 AM

Lynda Byrne said:

That's very true Mark - maybe I'll go into best practices for those in another post :)  

December 13, 2013 3:44 PM

About Lynda Byrne

Lynda is Method's Loyalty Marketing Manager. Having grown up in an entrepreneurial household, Lynda has a keen interest in the strategies and stories of small businesses. When she isn’t connecting Method users with solution based content, she can be found spending an unhealthy amount of time curating her Pinterest boards.