Mailbox Flood

Juuso is out-of-town now and will come back maybe tomorrow (or so). This is a scheduled post.

Darn, it’s Xmas time and my mailbox is dangerously flooding. At the time of writing there’s over 60 unread messages in my inbox (which is bad since I try to keep it as close to zero as possible). The fact that I’m away almost a week probably makes the mailbox even more cluttered with emails.

Usually my basic strategy for dealing with email inbox is quite simple: mark read & delete posts in batches – read only the ones that seem reasonable to read (and reply right away instead of thinking that “I’ll deal with this next week”). Usually there’s still several emails that are waiting to get answered. This way I hope to have a “clean inbox”, thus I can rest assured that I’ve dealt with the important posts.

What’s your strategy on dealing with emails, and how you keep things effective?

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. I generally deal with large floods by starting with people I know. These are generally the first I read and respond to. If there are lots of people I know emailing me, I prioritize by dealing with the people I have spoken to most recently. Then, I deal with messages that look somewhat interesting. I never just go an delete emails, unless it is either spam, or just someone I don’t want to talk to.

  2. I can’t abide a non-empty mailbox. I empty it every day. Sometimes an email requires a task to be completed, so I save that email into my digital in-tray and process it later when I have more time.

  3. My technique is similar to yours. And yes, I am guilty of putting off replying to emails for days and they pile up. (I recently went back and replied or marked as read all my emails I hadn’t though)

    One problem with Sargon’s auto-reply approach is that in the past, I’ve seen replies to spam sometime cause more spam to come (I used to have little auto-reply emails that said “The webmaster has recieved your email and will review it shortly.”)


  4. Depending on your email service, some have ways to flag different email groups and have them sorted for you, so that you still get to keep all your emails but you can figure out which are the most important. You may want to take a look into your email service and see if they have a way of separating the emails into groups by key words or email addresses. Sometimes it’s even part of the Spam blocker but you can use it for other groups too.

    I use this to help me prioritize emails. I put mailing lists that I actually want to read but aren’t high in priority. I also have a few people who I need to talk with regularly that I set as high priority people so I can see their emails first. That’s how I set my priority emails.

  5. There are ways to make your life easier, but they also make life harder for the people trying to send you an email.
    Such as an automatic reply to whom is sending you email, requesting to resend the question with an appropriate headline.
    That will filter some of the spam and other people who are too lazy to read your automatic responds.
    However, this will be very annoying to the people who actually want to send you email and you actually want to read them.

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