3 Ways to Battle Email Overload

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Has your inbox reached its size limit? Have you lost track of who’s waiting for a response? Most people struggle to stay on top of email. Here are three tactics that might help:

  • Reply by phone. Quick calls can often eliminate dozens of emails. A five-minute chat may be more efficient than crafting a message that adequately explains the situation.
  • Do not copy. If a message you’re sending requires a recipient’s attention, include that person in the “to” field; if not, leave them off entirely. Tell colleagues to do the same.
  • Put down the smartphone. When you have a few minutes between meetings, don’t respond to email on your mobile’s tiny keyboard. Wait until you’re back at your desk or with your laptop or tablet, when you can craft a better response in less time.

Adapted from the HBR Guide to Getting the Right Work Done.

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Ask yourself why you are sending carbon copies. For your benefit? That's a problem for you; don't burden others. For their benefit? Really, they need one more FYI to burden their lives?


"Reply by phone" I generally agree with this approach, but I always back it up with an email summarising the conclusion of the conversation.

"Do not copy" This is where an email collaboration product comes in useful like that offered by www.knowledgemill.com (@knowledgemill). It allows team collaboration without the need for a cc.

"Put down the smartphone" These can be useful for checking for important or timely messages, but if there is really a problem then you will get a phone call. Trust me.


Your three ways are fine, and I've seen the overload challenge approached piece meal. I went all out and developed a methodology to master email communications, unload email overload, save hours of professional time and reduce the millions of dollars of productivity loss. Read my little book, Unload Email Overload; make some commitments, and get your life back. bob@mastering-email.com