• James Walton

How to Process 100+ Emails ASAP

Email can take over your life if you're not careful. And sometimes it can take over your life even if you are.


The amount of email an office worker receives each day varies, but 120 is a good starting point. Get focused on a project for an afternoon, or invest in meetings for a day, and while you've turned your back on your inbox, it's turned into a teeming mess.


Here's how to get unstuck in a hurry.

  1. Turn off the Outlook feature to fetch new email from the server unless you hit Send/Receive. That way you won't be distracted/discouraged by new incoming email while you're jamming out old ones.

  2. Touch each email only once. There are only four actions you can take: 1) do it - if can be resolved in two minutes or less, do it now. 2) delegate it - if someone else is better equipped to handle it, forward the email to a relevant party. 3) defer it - you might need more information or more time to think before making a decision. Either leave the email in your inbox (not ideal) or create a separate Awaiting Action folder and store it there. 4) delete it - if you know you'll never need it again, just delete (and use that as an opportunity to unsubscribe)

  3. Work in dedicated sprints of 25-35 minutes, then take a 5 minute break to walk around, get a drink, whatever. Get right back to it after the five minutes.

  4. If you find yourself mindlessly scrolling up and down through your inbox, pause. That's a sign you're not on the right track and getting overwhelmed by the volume of email. Reset and start working from the top down (or bottom up) focused on processing each email to the archive folder.

The most important thing you're after is mental clarity: doing what's necessary to action an item such that you don't need the email sitting there creating visual clutter.


Email is a reality we need to contend with. Left unchecked, it has the potential to have an outsized impact on our days (and nights), creating a sense of "always-on" stress and diminishing performance over time. But there's hope, and these steps are a helpful strategy to reclaiming your inbox.

 

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