Do you have a friendly relationship with email, or do you feel
like a slave to your email?
Do you get a sinking feeling every time you check your email
because you know there are more new messages than you even want
to know about, let alone read?
you spend time reading “interesting” and “valuable” material
that people have forwarded to you when you really should be
doing other things?
you check your mail several times a day and feel that every
message requires your response within 4 hours?
you feel obligated to all the chain letters you receive and the
emails that ask you to “forward this message to everyone you
For many of you, email is the arena in which you most need to
build stronger boundaries.
The great proliferation of email that many of us receive has
come upon us slowly and innocuously enough. In a short time, we
have gone from being excited and delighted with this new medium
to being oppressed by hours of email work to do each day. Some
email takes the place of contacts that would otherwise be
handled by US mail, voice, or fax, but in other cases, the email
coming at us simply adds to the already roaring DIN of daily
Through working with clients and handling my own situation, I
have come up with several tips for overthrowing email tyranny.
Some of these tips are for everyone, and some are particularly
for high volume email users.
Coaching tips for handling email:
1. Know what you’re reading. Determine this immediately. Is it
work-related or personal? Is it essential or is it “enrichment”
material? Is it a “real” message from someone to you, or is it
something that’s being forwarded all around the Internet? Some
of this information can be accurately inferred from the return
address or the subject.
2. YOU decide whether and when you want to deal with a
particular email. Some messages you may choose to address right
away. Others you determine will wait til later. Still others are
for leisure reading. And still others you may decide you never
want to read them. The latter emails should be deleted as soon
as you make that determination.
3. If you don’t like receiving “fwds” (forwarded messages) from
people, ask them to stop sending them to you! There are a great
many “interesting” and “valuable” emails being forwarded all
over the Internet, by people with the highest intentions. But if
you find these a nuisance, ask your senders to stop sending
them. Tell the truth. And stop reading the ones you receive.
LISTEN VERY CLOSELY: YOU GET TO DECIDE WHICH EMAILS TO READ and
4. Just because an email gives you the address of an interesting
website, it doesn’t mean you have to take the time to visit it!
I have worked with clients who feel obligated to visit every
website anyone has ever told them about. LISTEN VERY CLOSELY:
YOU GET TO DECIDE WHICH WEBSITES (if any) TO VISIT and when.
5. Many people love reading the jokes, stories, and quoted
material that come their way by email, and find that this input
provides a certain balance for them, an infusion of uplifting
ideas, a sense of connection. If this is true for you, then make
a conscious choice to give yourself time to read them, and don’t
feel guilty about it. But be honest with yourself. Are you
reading non-essential email when you need to be working? Is your
leisure email habit eating up time (cumulatively) you would
otherwise have for leisure activity that you enjoy more?
6. Some email programs, like Eudora Pro, allow you to set up
filters for your email. Set up your filters so that certain
types of email can be effectively sorted and grouped together
for you. For example, I get daily updates from one of the
websites where I post my teleclasses; the daily update tells me
who is currently registered for my class. I don’t need to read
that every day. I can have my filtering software put all those
updates together, and I can read the most recent one when I
7. Your most valuable currency is your time. Email can be a
black hole of lost time. Be vigilant. Be powerful. Take care of
Tips for High Volume Email Users:
1. Bring in an assistant. Many power email users live with the
delusion that they are the only ones who could possibly read and
respond to all their email. Examine your email this week to
identify some typical types of incoming and outgoing email.
Classic examples include inquiries about your business or
services and requests for information, each of which have a
fairly standard response. Train your assistant to identify and
handle these emails. You can also train the assistant to:
a) identify and delete junk mail (of any sort)
b) determine what’s urgent and get it to you
c) determine what’s “leisure reading” and print it for you so
you can read it when you’re in the dentist’s waiting room, stuck
in traffic, etc.
d) respond to more complex emails
2. Don’t let yourself be driven by the real or imagined
expectations of your senders. If you are stressed because you
feel you have to respond immediately, take a look at your
assumptions. Are they accurate? Are they reasonable? Negotiate
something that will work for you. Eliminate the stress.
If you’re considering hiring a coach to help you with challenges
like Email tyranny, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for an
initial consultation at no charge.
COPYRIGHT 2003, Sharon Teitelbaum. All rights reserved.