Drowning in Email

Our team feels like they are drowning in email and so I have been asked to write some top tips on how to cope.

Choose the right medium for the message

  • If you need an answer the same day, call and/or text me instead. Leave a message if you can’t get through, with detail of any deadline, so I can prepare and prioritise.

Distinguish between action and for info

  • If you need me to do something put ‘for action’ in the subject line and highlight any deadlines. Now you can relax, safe in the knowledge that I am working on it. This is the process I use:
  1. Scan email to gain a sense of what’s required
  2. If possible, respond straight away
  3. If not, flag it as a visual reminder that I need to follow up
  4. Transfer the action onto a separate ‘to-do list’
  5. Check the list regularly and prioritise (*sometimes I even add stars*)
  6. Do it, delete it
  • Would you like me to read or be aware of something? If so, put ‘for info’ in the subject line. I will leave this in my inbox until I can give it more attention. If it sits there for more than a couple of weeks, I will file it, feeling a slight sense of failure as I do so.

A Trompe l'Oeil of Newspapers, Letters and Writing Implements on a Wooden Board c.1699 by Edward Collier active 1662-1708
Edward Collier
A Trompe l’Oeil of Newspapers, Letters and Writing Implements on a Wooden Board


Addressing or copying me

  • If you ‘cc’ me into an email assume that I assume this is just for reference and will move it into a folder especially for this purpose, where it will languish, unloved, until archived.
  • If I really, really need to be included in an email chain then clarify why and change the subject line to one that makes current sense.

Formatting and length

  • Judicious use of formatting can help me navigate through information. Email struggles with conversation, thinking out loud or long paragraphs. More than a couple of hundred words usually have a better chance with another medium.

Tone and style

  • Imagine I am there when you write your email. Check your tone in line with how I might react– am I a smiley face or a ‘yours sincerely’ type?
  • I appreciate you too are in a rush, so a quick once over before you send it will save us both time. Cut unnecessary words, check for clarity and send in confidence.


Feel free to ignore all of the above when the reason for writing is to make me laugh, flatter or generally make me feel better about all the emails I am getting.