Guest Blogs

“How Do You Handle E-Mail Overload?”

I’m overwhelmed by the number of e-mail addresses and inboxes I juggle for work. How can I get control and organize my e-mail without feeling overloaded?

E-mail and information overload seem inevitable. The moment I arrive at a new job, I acquire another e-mail address, with the number of e-mail addresses and accounts attached to me now close to the number of fingers that I have — Yahoo!, Google, Facebook, and even an e-mail address for alumni.

I want to prove to myself — and to my attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) — that I can do this, handle it all. I want to show the new boss that the tentacles of technology do not overwhelm me, that I can handle the e-mail threads (though it feels as if an octopus has wrapped its eight legs around me).

But I must fess up: I am overwhelmed. Help!

I know what my shrink back in New York would say: “Think happy thoughts and take some more Prozac.” (As a tangent on the topic of drugs, I opted for the generic brand of Adderall, Amphetamines, on my last trip to New York after discovering that my health care had run dry. The latter cost $87 a bottle as opposed to almost $450 for a bottle of the former.)

I’ve asked the Father, the Stepmother, and a few other mentors for advice on how to manage the information overload. Some suggest deleting messages after reading them. Others suggest printing out all of the e-mails, reading them, answering them, and then deleting them. Then a few suggested creating sub-folders and filing e-mails based on date.

In the meantime, my to-do list expands every day. The new boss doesn’t know that I struggle with the e-mail octopus, but her deputy seems to have gotten a clue when I missed an e-mail that she had sent asking me to update an Excel spreadsheet with new information. “Why didn’t the latest spreadsheet reflect the changes,” she asked. “Did you receive that e-mail?” Of course I did; it just got buried and forgotten. I wrote back that I had it under control. But do I?

[Editor’s Note: Find expert tips for managing e-mail overload.]

How do you avoid information and e-mail overload?