I have been working toward doing email 3 times per day for 1/2 hour per the podcast recommendations.  So far it is going pretty well.  I can keep up with what comes in every day as long as I don't have an all day workshop or something like that.  The thing that isn't addressed in the podcasts is how to deal with the backlog of emails from before I started doing this.  Any suggestions?

tryingmybest's picture
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Two thoughts come to mind:

1)  Set aside some time and just work feverishly to get through the backlog.  My guess is that 60 minutes would likely clear it all out.  Be ruthless in your processing.

2) Combine with #1 above, or on it's own: Delete any messages older than say two weeks (perhaps other than those from your boss) and process only the remaining ones.  If if email is beyond the two weeks (or whatever time you decide), it is likely irrelevant or the item has been brought to your attention in another form (phone call, in person, etc).

Other thoughts?


vinnyjones's picture

I agree with Jon, the backlog needs to be scheduled like you would do any other task (if you are not doing this already then this is a perfect time to start).

The alternative is to increase your regular email time to, say, 45mins for the next couple of weeks.  Use 30mins to process new and the last 15mins to start on the backlog.  My push would be, if it is a backlog and important, it will probably pop back up in your inbox from the originator assuming "backlog" means you have likely missed some deliverables.

mfculbert's picture

I used a two pronged approach.

I schedule another hour each week just to clear the newest of the old emails and started to clear backwards.

At the same time, I deleted everything that was more than 1 year old. It took me about 4 or 5 months but it felt great when I finally got it all processed.

I support you could also make another folder saying  older than DATE and place all the old, unsorted stuff in there and just ignore it for year or two.

trabant's picture

Thanks for the input.  So far I have been just chipping away at it because I haven't had time to schedule a block of time to knock it all out.  It definitely feels good to not be adding to the backlog every day!  Next week will be a test though, since I am in workshops Tuesday through Friday!

cynaus's picture
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I moved all of mine older than a month to an archive folder and worked through what was left.

That was 2 years ago, and I still haven't had a chance to go back and deal with them.  Guess they weren't that important as nothing has blown up, disintegrated or fallen apart ;)

Have fun with it!

donm's picture
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When I travel, I am often in places with very, very poor internet connections. It can take me an hour or more to download one meg. Needless to say, I have a hefty backlog of emails upon my return, usually two to three hundred, and sometimes more than 500 emails. My record is about 800 emails, but that's not normal.

What I do upon my return is I sit down alone in my office (not the one where I work, the one at the house), and I just group the emails by subject, and attack. If I have 20 emails with the same subject line, I'll open the last one and skim through the contents. If things appear to be on track, I just close out the entire group as "read" and go to the next group. If there is some follow-up, I do it immediately, usually through another email or delegation. If it requires my personal input, it gets remarked as "unread," and I go back into the scrum with the next subject line group. I am continually switching between "compact" and "unread" views to keep my subject list ONLY emails I have not yet read.

It usually takes me about 30 minutes to clear out about 40% of the email, then 30 minutes for the next 30%, 30 minutes for the next 20%, and 30 minutes for the last 10%, as the groups get smaller, so I have to do more reading to process the later groups. Due to this, for two hours of intensive effort, my mailbox is up-to-date, and I have a short list of emails that require my personal attention when I get to the office the next day.