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3 steps to reduce email overload

Email overload is so pervasive that it's a common topic on these pages. In the past, you're read that some companies want to eliminate email entirely in hopes that it will improve productivity.

But Amy Gallo at the Harvard Business Review contends that "email overload" isn't really an email problem at all -- it's the business rules, policies and corporate culture that you have in place around email which are the real problem. In other words, email is the symptom. Here are some ways to actually tackle the real problem:

Ensure people get the information they need. If you acknowledge that email overload is just a symptom of a bigger problem, then it becomes clear that floods of email are just cries for help -- people need information and decisions, and email might be perceived as the only way to get it. According to the HBR: "Email handled well reduces meetings. And meetings handled well reduces emails."

Control the spigot. One way to get less email is to control it at the source. Are you being cc'd on too much mail? Re-evaluate the rules in place around when coworkers and subordinates include you in email threads. Perhaps you need a new policy -- or even any policy at all -- about when and how you get looped into email conversations.

Clear out your inbox. If you have thousands of messages in your inbox, declare bankruptcy and delete all of them. If something was important, someone will follow up. And once you clear out your inbox, stay on top of it using methods like the boomerang approach.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Lars Plougmann.

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