Dealing with Email Overload After a Vacation

Wading through the enormous amounts of email in your inbox after returning from a vacation or long weekend can be a pretty daunting task. After an entire week away from the office where I didn’t check email at all, I came back to nearly 200 unopened emails. I jokingly asked my lead agent if it was okay for me to delete them all and declare email bankruptcy.

Here’s my method for efficiently and effectively getting my inbox back to manageable.

  1. Delete everything you don’t need based on who it’s from and the subject line alone. Don’t open it; just delete it. I don’t know about you, but I do get a lot of junk email from places like Bed, Bath, & Beyond and The Vitamin Shoppe. Apparently at some point I used my work email address to sign up for coupons or something and now I get an email every day from them. So that stuff gets deleted first without ever getting opened. Same with email from our sign company, printing company, and closing gift company.
  2. Take a look at the subject lines for the remaining emails in your inbox. You’ll notice that a number of them relate to current listings or closings. Create labels for each of those listings or closings that you see in your inbox and without opening those emails, move them to their appropriate labels.
  3. Create a label named To Do.
  4. Now you’re going to actually start opening the emails that remain in your inbox. If they pertain to a listing or closing, use the appropriate label for those, or create new ones if you need to. For any emails not associated with a listing or closing, use the To Do label. Remember, at this point we’re still just sorting. It may not take long to do what the email is asking, but remember, you’ve been out of the office, and while you were gone, someone else may have already handled that task without telling you they did it.
  5. Once you have all your email sorted, now you can decide what needs to be done. Read through all the emails for each listing and closing. You may have received an email five days ago asking for something, and then 3 days ago, you were copied on a reply that the thing had been taken care of. Once you’ve been through all the emails, ask the agents or admin on your team to bring you up to speed for each listing and closing. Then you’ll know for sure what (if anything) you need to do next.
  6. Read through all the emails in your To Do label. Then find out from the sender if each one still needs to be done. Often when people can’t get things from you immediately, they will get it from someone else. Don’t waste your time doing something that’s already been done!

The biggest frustration of looking at a ton of emails in your inbox is not knowing what’s important. Taking the steps above will get you back on track in about an hour (depending on the number of emails you have to sort through) and you’re sense of order will be restored!

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