Are you experiencing email and Social Media overload?

Can you relate to the woman in this picture?

(while this isn’t me I am sure I have often looked like this before when seeing a massive number of emails in my inbox)

While I’m sure that nearly every business person can relate –  however, I believe that the ones who may suffer the most are solopreneurs. Many are on Twitter, LinkedIn, have both a fan page and personal page on Facebook, subscribe to RSS feeds, newsletters, etc.

What does this mean for the average often overloaded, overwhelmed, overworked, overstressed business owner?

What can we do to process and consume the information overload as quickly and efficiently as possible?

Honestly, I have no idea – I’ve been battling it myself now for some time. I have email ADD – it’s not unusual that I am waiting for a response from a client so I can proceed on a project. What I found is that when I would go to see if I received a response email from Client Jane Doe that I would get caught up reading emails that were not “income” producing, yet nonetheless ones I needed (or believed that I needed, to read). Some time later I’d look at the clock and gasp with “Oh my gosh, it’s XX time already?”

Many productivity and time-management gurus suggest only checking your inbox three times per day. In my particular case – because most of my workload comes in by way of email this is unrealistic for me.

My email inbox is sacred real estate and I try to keep my “main” inbox for only clients and potential clients. However, I still need to process and handle all other emails that come in over the course of a day. In a full-out war on email and to take back control of my own time I began to experiment with various tools, software programs, methods, etc.

The following items/methods have proven to be highly beneficial to me in handing my email overload:

  • If working on a long project I will put Outlook in “offline” mode. This allows me to draft emails related to the project – yet not be distracted by any incoming mail.
  • I relentlessly and ruthlessly began unsubscribing from newsletters that I no longer read and from most LinkedIn group activity email updates.
  • I’ve left all groups on Facebook that insist on sending me a daily mass member email. (a pet peeve of mine – it’s worse than being added, without permission, to someone’s e-newsletter)
  • Clients who send me a considerably high number of emails have their own folder and MS Outlook rule set up so all emails are directed immediately to their specific folder.
  • LinkedIn requests, Facebook messages, newsletters I do read, family/friends, comments/replies on blog posts I’ve commented on, etc. (anything that is NOT directly income producing) are immediately routed to ONE special folder. That particular folder is only read at the end of the day or on the weekend – those are emails I do not feel compelled to immediately read and respond to. When I do read them I actually start a timer and record how much time I am spending on reading non-income producing items.

The last item on the list above has proven to be a truly revealing process and that alone has had the greatest impact on my overload and productivity. Once I truly realized and could quantify just how many I was receiving, as well as the time I was spending reading them, I could – without guilt – begin the process of the unsubscribing, etc.

Though I still haven’t conquered the email/information overload I do breathe much easier than I had in the past.

What processes to you have in place and what tips can you share from your personal experience?