How many emails per day is normal

5 strategies for when you get too many emails

You can often tell from the number of incoming emails whether everything is going well at the moment. Because especially when it crunches somewhere, a particularly large number of emails are written. We are happy to include people in CC who are only remotely related to the topic. So that everyone is well informed - and no one can say afterwards that they didn't know anything.

The intent behind this may be good. But everything comes together in your inbox - and that doesn't feel good anymore. Because every person has a physical limit to the number of emails that they can "get rid of" per day. And sometimes this limit is exceeded - you just get too many emails.

There are different strategies how you can deal with this flood of mail. These strategies all have one thing in common: Assuming that you get more emails than you can physically manage, you have to decide which emails you read and which you don't.

Too many emails: what is relevant?

With every email you get, you have to decide whether it is relevant to you or not. Relevant can mean the following:

  • The mail contains a informationthat is important to you.
  • The mail contains a taskthat you have to do.

The first two strategies that I am now introducing to you will help you to quickly assess the relevance of emails. Strategies three to five are more like escalation strategies to sensitize your environment to the email problem. Because Outlook is probably the most widely used mail program, I will refer to Outlook in this post.


Use CC folder
It often makes a qualitative difference whether you are the direct addressee of an email or are in CC. In order to keep track of things, you could have all emails for which you are "only" in CC moved to a separate folder with an automatic rule - the so-called CC folder.

This is used to carry out a pre-sorting in order to separate the wheat from the chaff. You then of course first read the emails that remain in the inbox. You only read the mails in the CC folder if you have time.

Maybe you groan inside now: It's not that easy. The CC-Mails could also contain important information for you.

Yes that's true. But: The initial situation was that you couldn't read all the emails. So you have to make up your mind somehow. And in most cases, the emails that you are addressed directly are probably more important than the emails that you are in CC.

It can also be a good idea to always read the CC mail at a specific time of the day. This could be, for example, the last half an hour before the end of the working day because you no longer have the same energy there as at the beginning of a work day. The idea behind it: Do important things and processes that require all of your attention at the time of day when you are freshest.


Automatically mark emails in color
This strategy also assumes that CC mails are usually less relevant than mails that are addressed directly to you. Strategy 2 introduces color coding which, with the help of conditional formatting in Outlook, could look like this, for example:

  • If only you are specified as the addressee: The email is displayed in red in the overview.
  • If you are the direct addressee - but only one of several: The mail is displayed in black in the overview.
  • If you are "only" in CC: The mail is shown in gray in the overview.

Example:

With this color coding, you can quickly decide which mails are probably important to you (because only you are addressed and the mail is shown in red) - and which you can treat with the lowest priority (because you are only addressed in CC and the mail is gray is pictured).

As variant 2b, it would also be conceivable to have emails from particularly important people automatically color-coded. This could include emails from your boss, for example - or emails from people who play a particularly important role in your current task.


Establish team rules
If you receive a lot of e-mails from your own team or from related areas in a professional context, then you could suggest introducing rules for sending e-mails. The goal: to get fewer emails - and to be able to decide at a glance what it is about and how relevant it is for you.

For example, the following team rules might make sense:

  • Before sending, think about whether the email is really important for all addressees.
  • Mark really important emails with "high priority" or use the keyword "important" in the subject.
  • The first sentence of the mail should explain what it is about and why the mail is important.

Such rules will probably not prevent all colleagues from writing to God and the world, as in the past - perhaps because they actually always classify their own emails as important for all addressees.

If you often have a different opinion about the relevance of messages from certain colleagues, you could create special rules for these colleagues (move them automatically or highlight them in color).


The mallet method

As a rule, the sender of emails has done his job by pressing the send button. The ball then lies in the recipient's field - and with it the responsibility to do something with the mail. The broadcaster is relinquishing its responsibility.

This is very annoying, especially with colleagues who mostly inform God & the world about all kinds of things. You quickly get the feeling that these colleagues are making it very easy for themselves.

If team agreements are unsuccessful, you can use this strategy to make the sender responsible for relevance-based target groups - and possibly create an awareness of how to deal responsibly with target groups.

Here's how you go about this strategy: You basically do not read emails that you are in CC. But: You inform the sender that you will not read this mail.

To do this, you create a rule in Outlook that automatically replies to every email that you are in CC. In response you write a text like this:

Dear sender,

You put me in CC on this mail. Because I get around 200 emails every day, I can't read them all. Most of the time I have to leave unread mails for which I am in CC. If the mail that you sent me is important to me from your point of view, then I ask you to send it to me again with the word "important" in the subject.

Thank you for your support, Dieter Schmitz

You configure the rule so that the automatic reply is not sent if the subject contains the word "important". In addition, you could usually ensure that all CC mails without "Important" in the subject are automatically moved to the CC folder.

This measure is very drastic and should be the last resort - because the following could happen:

  • Colleagues get cold because you doubt that their assessment of relevance was correct. And because if in doubt they have more work to do (resend mail).
  • In the future, colleagues will always place you in the direct audience - and no longer in CC. The strategy then loses its effectiveness.

It would also be conceivable to announce this approach to the team. The discussion about it alone could change something.

I discovered a nice variation on this method in an article on the web. There the automatic out-of-office notice is permanently switched on with the following text:

Dear Colleagues,

Due to the absurdly large number of unread emails in my mailbox, I have decided to get off the "hamster wheel" of answering emails and concentrate on my actual work instead.

As soon as I read my email again tomorrow, the messages that:

    1. do not exceed 100 words.
    2. Specify a clear purpose in the subject line.
    3. Allow me to give one of the following answers: "Agree", "Disagree", or "Need more information".

For urgent matters, I am available for a ten-minute Skype4Business call after 3 p.m. We'll probably be able to solve the matter faster and more efficiently that way.

Thanks for your understanding.

call me
Someone recently reported in an article about a method that was not quite so "tough". He had configured an automatic reply in which only a very short text was written: "Call me."

The effect was amazing: some of the emails were apparently so unimportant that the sender did not make the desired call. And when the sender called, the matter could be dealt with conclusively in a short time. That saved a lot of time.

Conclusion

The strategies presented represent a basis for dealing with the flood of mail. You can certainly combine elements of the individual strategies with one another in order to achieve the best effect for you. The basic goal should always be: Being able to quickly decide which emails are of high relevance to you - and which emails you can safely leave unread.