My e-mail is officially out of control. To be more specific, my multiple e-mail accounts are out of control. I have all the right accounts and all of the right devices, but the combination of the two are making e-mail management overwhelming. I have a personal account on my local ISP, a work account, a Gmail account so that I can stay connected to all of the cool Google tools, and two different accounts that I use for services that I think might generate spam.
How many devices?
In a recent Capstone paper by AIM graduate Jon Dolan titled “Enterprise-Wide
Techniques to Remediate or Avoid Email Overload”, he defines “e-mail overload” as “e-mail users’ perceptions that their own use of e-mail has gotten out of control because they receive and send more e-mail than they can handle, find, or process effectively”. I was able to manage e-mail when I viewed them only on one device, but I now have two laptops, two tablets, a desktop, and a smartphone. It is very easy and convenient to check multiple accounts on each device but it also raises the possibility of reading the same e-mail—or at least subject—multiple times; that is not at all efficient. Fortunately, there are account settings that will help with this problem, but it really comes down to the question as to how often to check e-mail.
How often to check e-mail?
How often do you check your e-mail accounts? I think I check mine too frequently. I usually have many balls in the air and I try to keep up on the progress of each of those balls or projects. More often than not though, it tends to disrupt my workflow and break up my day. In other words, this pattern actually makes me less productive, just when it is supposed to improve my effectiveness. One thing that I do in an attempt to consolidate e-mail is to sign up for the daily digest version from several Google or Yahoo groups that I belong to. This means that I get one e-mail from the daily activities. The only problem with this approach is that not everyone else follows my style and I miss entire conversations that go on during the day. I am forced to choose between efficiency and inclusion.
I already use filters in my e-mail accounts, but I need to work even smarter to stay ahead of the load. I need to sort out which account to assign to which device so that I am not reading the same e-mail twice. In other words, I need a better strategy for managing my accounts AND my devices!
Do you have a method for dealing with e-mail overload? When you receive an e-mail, do you feel obligated to respond? What if the e-mail is to you only and not a larger group? How do you distinguish between an informational e-mail and one that requires action? Let me know your thoughts.
Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.