22,176 emails in Outlook eMail Inbox … Really?

Manage eMail

Manage eMail

During a recent remote screen-share, I noticed my contact had 22,176 emails in his Outlook Inbox.  22,176 emails!  Here are a few tips on how to manage email.

Quick disclosure, Dupont Learning started out as a time management training company, and went some 15 years teaching young professionals to use Time-Text and Priority Manager Systems.  Back then, I used to use examples of 4,000 emails in your inbox, but, now, 22,176? Really?

Now I know that almost all these emails are inactive, or already “deleted” in the mind of the user, but questions that come to mind are … are some of these emails still active? Where are they? Are some emails waiting for a response? Are there action items among the 22,176?  Where are they and when will they get done?  How many times does this person scroll through pages of emails to find the action items?  If there are action items in the inbox, how many times will this person see or “handle” the email before the action is completed?  I am guessing about 20 times for each action item.

Now, chances are this person thinks he is he is very busy – but I’ll bet getting things from him on-time is a challenge. And I imagine there is a lot of “grinding” going on in his mind as he tries to keep all the balls in the air – but with many of the balls hidden … in the 22,176 email pile.

My thought is that the 22,176 emails – and the mental grinding (remembering) – are symptoms of poor organization, indecision, and procrastination – and ultimately, no system for “date-activating” tasks.

In short, here is what he should do – every day to manage email:

  • Delete: No further action emails should be deleted (you can still find them in your deleted folder).
  • Move: If no action is required, but you need to archive an email for later access, create inbox folders – and move the email to that folder.
  • Take Action now: Some items are very quick, or are important or urgent enough for you to drop everything and handle the task now.  Decide.
  • Take action later: Many action items are important but not urgent, so schedule the task in Outlook Tasks, and move the email to a “follow up” folder. Click here to learn how.

Note that the above steps to manage email all involve decisions – quick decisions – and since your email inbox is probably the primary source of new work activities, all knowledge workers need to spend time in the inbox making decisions.  Will it take you an hour a day?  Maybe.  2 hours?  Could be.  No matter how long it takes, you need to clear your inbox every day.  My rule of thumb is that I need to start work the next day with an email inbox list that does not have a scrollbar.  That means I can see all my emails at once – making me feel in control.  Feeling in control helps me make the right decisions about what to work on next.  And the objective is to always be working on the most important tasks.

Hope this helps.  View the specific “manage email” lesson of our Personal Performance Management System e-learning course by clicking the following tab:

Use this tab to access Dupont Learning’s Personal Performance Management System e-learning course from the beginning:

Contact Dupont Learning to discuss using this Personal Performance Management program at your company. Call 203-883-1059 or send email to tomd@dupontlearning.com