How to Reduce Your Email Volume

If you’re a Canadian office worker, you’re spending around a third of your time answering emails. That comes to us from a study out of Carleton University, who also noted that study participants thought that around thirty per cent of their emails were pointless.

Want to cut down on that number? Try these steps.

Ask Yourself: Should This Be a Call Instead?

Maybe you’re looking at a chain of emails that have just become a simple, back and forth conversation. Or you’re looking at a chain that has become hopelessly convoluted. Or you see the outlines of an emergency. Sometimes, it’s better to pick up the phone and call. That’ll end the endless email back-and-forth.


Be ruthless about newsletters to which you’re subscribed. Be cagy about what information sites want to send you. Be picky about who gets to send you information about deals, bargains, and coupons. Cutting down on promotional email is the fastest way to reduce your overall email volume.

Use the 5-Minute Rule

The 5-minute rule states that if something takes fewer than five minutes, you should do it now. That means that if you get an email that can be very quickly replied to, you do it right away instead of adding it to a growing pile.

Centralize Documents

Lots of email is just team members emailing documents back and forth. Instead, use collaboration software. This way you can not only keep documents in one place, but you also get a record of who changes what and when they do so.

Schedule Email Time

Interruptions can ruin workflow, so don’t let your email interrupt you. Instead, turn off email notifications and check your email at specific points during the day. For example, you can schedule email time at eleven in the morning, after you’ve done your creative work for the day, at one in the afternoon, after lunch, and then again at four in the afternoon, prior to leaving for the day. At these times, you can work through emails in batches. Remember, if something is an emergency, people can call you.

File Things Away

Create folders in your email client and file email chains you’re done with. Also, file everything to which you don’t need to respond. Often you’ll be on an email chain just to be kept in the loop. That’s not a bad thing, but once you’ve read the email, consider yourself in the loop and get that email out of your inbox. Otherwise it’s just cluttering up everything.

Send Fewer Emails

Specifically, teach executives to send fewer emails. According to an article in Harvard Business Review, the management at London-based International Power discovered that they were a big part of the glut of emails the company was dealing with and decided to treat the problem with lessons from manufacturing. They decided treat email as an industrial process, measuring things like unnecessary emails, confusing emails, and ineffective emails. By training executives to be more deliberate in their use of email and tracking the numbers, they reduced their overall email usage.