Bad E-Mail Habits: 2 Easy Steps to Less E-Mail Clutter

You probably don’t want to hear this, but if you’re receiving a huge number of e-mail messages every day...it’s mostly your fault.  I know we want to blame the co-worker who feels compelled to copy the entire floor, or the accountant who’d rather clutter our inbox then pick up the phone, these are genuine problems for sure, yet, the receiver is actually best-suited for controlling incoming messages. 

For me, e-mail in Corporate America was an endless source of frustration that was extremely difficult to get a handle on.  Every office has an e-mail culture, and every individual has an e-mail style.  Yet, very few e-mail cultures and personal styles are all that effective; in fact, most are riddled with waste.  

Most people don’t realize that the number of e-mail messages we receive is highly correlated to the number of messages we send.

Two Steps for Less E-mail

If your e-mail inbox has a problem with obesity, keep in mind the more you click "SEND,” the more you’ll click “DELETE.”  Here are two things you can do to reduce your daily e-mail volume:

1 - Track SENT E-mail.  

You don't know how big of a problem you have unless you start with a baseline.  Without making any changes to your e-mail habits, track the number of messages in your sent e-mail folder at the end of each day, for five business days. 

At the end of Day 5, tally up your total number of messages and calculate the average number you send per day to get a ballpark of where you're at.  If you really want to geek out, for extra credit, calculate the standard deviation of your 5-day tracking period, to see if there was a certain day of the week where you sent way more or less e-mail than usual, and keep an eye of that particular day moving forward.

2 - Target SENT E-Mail.  

Now that you have an established baseline it’s time to start tracking for Week 2.  Set a target goal to reduce the average number of e-mails you send in Week 2 by 10 to 20%.  If you're currently averaging a total of 50 sent messages per day, try to reduce it to 40 or 45.  This will get you consciously thinking about whether you need to send a particular message over e-mail or not.  

For Week 3 and beyond, target 5 to 10%.  Once you get down to less than 10 messages per day, you’re really starting to think about your personal e-mail habits and laying the foundation of a better office e-mail culture.

E-mail Alternatives

Now that you know what to do, there are some great strategies for how to do it.  The next post from Make it Snappy will give you three strategies for sending less e-mail so you can hit your targets.  In the meantime, head into your inbox and see how many messages you’ve been sending.  We’d love to hear about your e-mail habits and whether you’re setting goals to get lean.  Please post a comment below!