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How to handle large volumes of incoming email

Too much email? Ready to throw out your email address in favor of a new one nobody knows yet? Swamped by so much email you donít know where to begin?

Nowadays, we often use email (on the same computer) for both personal and business needs. We often have more than one email address dumping into the same inbox for more than one "hat" that we wear. Too much incoming communication can lead to overwhelm. But it doesnít have to.

What do you do with a constantly overstuffed inbox?

First, letís get a little order in, and that may mean several inboxes -- one for each "hat" (job, post, position, function, whatever else you want to call the categories of what you do). You might have already handled this in your everyday "paper" work with several in-baskets, one for each hat. Why not use the same principle for your incoming email?

Hereís how you do it.

1. Identify what different "hats" you wear with your email traffic. This might be as simple as one for business and one for personal, or more detailed if you wear several business hats and several volunteer or "activity" hats.

2. Assign a different "folder" for each hat you wear. Email programs usually allow you to have different "folders". You can assign a different folder for each "hat". For example, I have a folder just for my incoming email for my subscription to a particular online email service. I have a separate folder for email for my online business.

3. Set up "rules" to sort your incoming email into the different folders. Some email programs (like Outlook) allow you to set up "rules" where incoming email can be automatically sorted into different folders. For example, I wear several staff hats with my online business. Each hat gets put into a separate folder automatically.

4. Use different email addresses for different "hats". This is a technique that anyone can use as there are lots of free email services around, but also many of the regular ISPs, like Earthlink and AOL, offer multiple email addresses for free with your account. For example, I have an Earthlink account for my personal email, and one for a part-time job I do from home. Then I have four email addresses with my online business, one for each hat I wear. This makes it very easy to originate emails "from" the hat Iím writing from, and to sort incoming email into folders, one for each hat.

5. Wear one "hat" at a time. Itís easier to wear hat #1 and handle all its email, then wear hat #2 and handle all of its email. Thatís one reason why sorting email into folders by hat works so well to handle inbox overload.

6. Handle one thing at a time. This age-old advice works equally well when it comes to reading your incoming emails. If you start reading too many different communications at the same time, without handling a single one, itís so easy to get dispersed and then itís hard to handle any of them. Itís much easier to just decide to handle one, and then handle it, then another, then another, etc.

7. Spam? What about spam? Spam is so easy to identify these days that it can become a non-issue (unless you get dozens of spam emails at a time). Just delete it. Learn to identify it instantly and delete it. When it gets bad... well thatís another article for another day.

With these steps, you can handle lots of incoming email without getting overwhelmed. Having lots of communication lines and lots of communication is actually a good thing and pro-survival.

Happy communicating!

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