How many emails does it take for you to feel bombarded?

100 a day? 35? 120?

No matter the volume, you are probably close to hating your inbox. Too many emails taking up too much of your time, creating too much stress. Right? To make matters worse you're so busy you don't even have time to explore if there is a solution to your dilemma of too many incoming emails.

So let me help and explain how you can improve management, response and even reduce your stress by using the Rules or Filters feature of your email program.


The solution Rules/Filters gives you is having all the emails you receive (or send) scanned and based upon your criteria, have an action occur.

• Put emails in a folder
• Reply to certain incoming emails
• Delete certain incoming emails
• Forward on to someone else
• Combination of activities

When you start using Rules not only personally, but throughout the company and in conjunction with websites and call centres, the accumulated increase in productivity, customer response and service and sales can be extraordinary.

All email programs have Rules (webmail sometimes calls it filters). From Mac Mail to Thunderbird to Gmail to Outlook.

Read also: Debbie Mayo-Smith: I didn't know Outlook could do that! Two top tips

Rules though, is just a word until you cleverly apply it to solve business problems. Let me give you an example. I have a monthly newsletter that goes out to over 15,000. Do you think everyone is at their desk? No. When the newsletter goes out - in addition to my normal 150 - 180 emails a day I get between 300 to 500 out of office emails, mail delivery errors as well as requests for speaking and book orders.

Do I need to go through the out of office replies? No! So I've created a rule that I turn on when the newsletter goes out that looks for quite a few permutations of the words Out of office and puts them in a folder. That saves me the unnecessary activity of looking at and deleting 450 emails.

Here are a few ways I see this little email function having a dramatic impact for you:


• Have repetitive emails go straight to folders
Items such as newsletters, rsvp's, mail delivery errors, out of office, voting, meeting acceptances, personal email.

• Junk mail
Rules create another level of filtering for spam and junk mail by searching for words like V1agra; presidents daughter, the domain Nigeria. If your IT department sends screened emails to staff with the word spam added to the subject line, a rule can move it to a folder.

• Mitigate high CC and BCC volume
Often these are not germane, or the most important item in an inbox. Having them corralled into a cc folder helps prioritise one's attention to more important items.

• Delay sending out email
How many times have you forgot to 'attach' before hitting the send button? You can create a rule that delays the actual physical sending of the emails of a period of time like 5 or 10 minutes.

• Employee out sick or on vacation
A rule can forward emails that need actioning to someone else automatically.

• EA's multiple inboxes
Rules are of great benefit to Executive and Personal assistants, especially when working for several managers. They can create folders for each manager and have items such as travel, work to do, cc's sorted for them automatically.

• Standardise in-house in subject lines
FYI / FYA - for your information or action. Rules can then sort these out.

• Web response / call centres
Can benefit greatly from the clever utilisation of rules.

• Scan incoming emails for words or specific email addresses and automatically forwarding to the correct person, sent to a folder to show importance.
An automatic response can be triggered - one in general or specific answers to questions again based on the words.

• Having management copied into the emails to ensure staff are responding in a timely manner.

The bottom line is by cleverly looking for repetitive email patterns and recognising which have low or high priority you can pay attention to the right email at the right time and significantly remove manual handling of many incoming emails. Translation. Less time. Less stress. Quicker response.

Be in to win one of two copies of Debbie's Conquer Your Email Overload Ebook. Just email Debbie with the words conquer contest in the subject line. Winners will be announced in two weeks.