3 tips to managing email overload

News & Events

By Pierce Baker, Advancement and Engagement Student Worker

email overload

The average full-time employee spends 28 percent of the workweek—13 hours—reading and responding to email. Sifting through numerous emails in a day can be a difficult task.

Just ask researchers at UC Irvine and the U.S. Army how stressful email overload can be.

A recent study found participants who used email were in a steady “high alert” state, with more constant heart rates. Heart rate monitors were attached to employees in an office while software sensors detected how often they switched windows. The results showed limiting emails in a day can dramatically reduce stress levels and allow employees to focus better.

Managing email workload can increase work productivity and help physical health.

University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine Associate Dean of Medical Education Timothy Baker, M.D., alleviates his own email workload by using an inbox utilization method from Zappos Chief Executive Officer Tony Hsieh called Yesterbox. Dr. Baker incorporated the technique during a two-year Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) leadership development program, which taught time management skills.

“On a day-to-day basis, Yesterbox is not difficult to implement, since it is such a simple concept. Long term implementation, however, is much more challenging. Some days my inbox just gets the better of me regardless of what strategy I use to keep up,” Dr. Baker said.

This method utilizes a to-do list that is easy to follow but demands commitment long-term. Users can see progress in processing emails throughout the workday by simply responding to yesterday’s emails instead of today’s inbox. Yet, the technique also requires flexibility.

“It would simply not be acceptable to not at least scan my inbox from today to ensure there were not urgent issues that need attention. This is especially important in our environment, where student issues often need to be responded to immediately.” Dr. Baker said.

  1. Alias emails
    Receiving emails from personal subscriptions and important tasks at work can be tedious to sift through. Instead, Darren McBride from Sierra Computer Group recommends creating a new email address for non-essential concerns. This technique effectively separates your personal life from important tasks at work.
  2. Separate Inbox for External Email
    Scott Hanselman, a program manager at Microsoft, uses filters to receive incoming emails into three different inboxes: External emails (anyone outside his company), any emails he’s CC’d on, and one for all internal emails sent directly to Scott. This method helps to eliminate being distracted by emails that do not require immediate attention.
  3. Establish a “right to disconnect” culture in the workplace
    A new French law created in 2017 requires companies to establish hours when staff should not send or answer emails. These email restrictions are designed to make employees more relaxed and effective.

Managing email overload is a daily struggle. Dr. Baker hopes all UNR Med employees can find their own technique to limit emails in a workday and contribute to a positive and productive workplace:

“I find when I do use Yesterbox, I have more control over my email and am able to be more efficient.”

Media Contacts

Julie Ardito, APR
Senior Director, Advancement and Engagement
Office: (775) 784-6006

Tessa Bowen, MPA
Communications Manager, Advancement and Engagement
Office: (775) 682-9254

The University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine, Nevada's first public medical school, is a community-based, research-intensive medical school with a statewide vision for a healthy Nevada. Established in 1969, UNR Med is improving the health and well-being of all Nevadans and their communities through excellence in student education, postgraduate training and clinical care, research with local, national and global impact and a culture of diversity and inclusion.