Reducing My Email Workload

I get a fair amount of email in a week; stuff about work, stuff for oPASS, stuff for PASS, stuff for SQLSaturday, various newsletters (technical and other), and a few that fall into miscellaneous – a link to an interesting blog post, an invite to lunch, etc. Lately I’ve been trying to reduce the volume and it hasn’t been easy, but even a small reduction is helpful.

I’ve had people suggest RSS feeds, and in fact I do subscribe to quite a few (few hundred that is), and it works well for stuff that isn’t time sensitive, but email works well for things that need attention and when they end up needing to be tracked/converted to tasks.

I get a relatively small amount of email to my personal/home account, the one I use for bill reminders, family correspondence, etc, and while I need to read it, I rarely need to read it immediately, so I have it going to my phone only. The next step was to pay more attention for a week and if I wasn’t reading a newsletter, unsubscribe and consider adding it as a feed so I can still follow along. Netted a few more.

I found I get a lot of email because I’m on the forwarding list for the SQLSaturday main account and we’re at a point where HQ is handling that stuff, so I’ve asked to be taken off the list. That’s a hard cut for me, it’s good to have my finger on the pulse of things and hear about the occasional problem, but it’s a time sink. Instead I’ll rely on HQ and/or event leaders to raise things up to me that need my time.

One I haven’t fixed yet is bounced emails when we mail to the oPASS list. You know how email addresses are, good today and bad tomorrow, so right now we probably get 50 bounces per send. Cleaning those up is tedious, so mostly I delete them, but I can’t skip email to the main oPASS account, and I don’t think that we have the option to specify a different email for bounces (but I need to check again).

I try hard to be diligent about email, if at all possible I get a reply out in 24 hours. Every email I get takes a few seconds to read, then decide on action then or later in the day, or move to a task and try to come back to. It’s hard to tell if I’m saving a significant amount of time – my guess would be only a few minutes – but it feels like less work, less things to do, and that in turns feels like just a little bit less stress.

You might note that I’m not big on filing newsletters for another day. I’ve tried it a few times and while mechanically it works, it seems I rarely get back to it. If it was important it wouldn’t get filed, and if it got filed it wasn’t important! Strangely having a backlog of feeds is fine with me, it’s nice to have a bunch of stuff queued to read (for those that don’t just publish abstracts that is) when I’m waiting on something.

It’s a tradeoff. I like reading, like following a lot of things, but I only have x hours in the day and some of that has to go to doing real work.

2 thoughts on “Reducing My Email Workload

  1. Andy,

    I have not been doing this with my current e-mail account but I have done it in the past with work accounts. You might consider setting up a filter in the account management that filters based off of e-mail address, text string or other data within the e-mails. This might help you get to Inbox 0 more effectively while turning bounced e-mails into tasks to complete.

    Let me know if this is helpful to you.

    Travis Page


  2. Travis, I’m sorry for the slow reply. I think that’s an interesting technique to try, and will see in the next week or so if I’ve got a couple I can do that with.


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