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Lightening the load on your email inbox: Five tips

October 16, 2011|By Scott J. Wilson, Los Angeles Times
  • An overflowing inbox can be overwhelming.
An overflowing inbox can be overwhelming. (Tom Pennington, Getty Images )

Email can be a useful tool, but the sheer volume can be overwhelming. This year around 349 billion emails will be sent worldwide, according to the market research firm Radicati Group Inc. That total is expected to grow to 507 billion by 2013. Here's how to stem the flow to your inbox:

Be careful about giving out your email address. When you fill out a form, subscribe to a magazine or enter a drawing, consider whether to provide your email address. Some online "free giveaway" promotions are designed to harvest email addresses for marketing lists.

Use a spam filter. Many email providers — including Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo Mail — come with built-in protections against unwanted advertising messages. If yours doesn't, you can buy third-party software. If you're getting spam on your work email, ask your IT department for help.

Think carefully before hitting "reply to all." This option is "a huge source of email overload in almost every organization," said Jonathan B. Spria, author of "Overload: How Too Much Information Is Hazardous to Your Organization." The more people you email, the more emails you'll get back.

Unsubscribe. Sure, it might have made sense at one time to sign up for that email newsletter or put your name on a certain mailing list. But are you still reading those emails? If not, find the unsubscribe link, usually at the bottom of the message. Alternatively, offers a plug-in tool to help you get off lists.

Talk. This suggestion may seem so, well, 20th century. But a single phone call — or simply walking down the hall to the person's desk — can often be quicker and more effective than exchanging multiple emails. Conversation offers the opportunity for give-and-take that's not possible via email.

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