How To Reduce Inbox Overwhelm And Set Up Better Boundaries

Oh email. Our dear email. How did it get so messy? What should we do about it? Is there even a point of managing it? Or, should we just let it all go? 

If you’re trying to figure out the answers to these questions, keep reading!

I just shared a video with my Instagram and Facebook community stating that effective immediately, “I have declared Email Bankruptcy.”  Since this video has been shared, I’ve received so many comments regarding my mail management, that I believe it’s worth sharing here as well.

The Genesis of Inbox Overwhelm

Inbox overwhelm happens when there is an accumulation of old and new information and it gets so big that you no longer can manage it. Even when you think you are doing well ignoring it, with time, it gets you!

This was the case for me. I thought I was ok just buying more data and not doing anything with my email; except for reading, swiping or replying. After spending decades in online marketing and having so many active social media accounts, I felt like my attention was being pulled in many different directions. 

I realized that I was opening my emails out of habit, almost by impulse. As I paid more attention, I began noticing that every time I was about to open my emails, I felt anxious, angry, and didn’t even want to see them, let alone tackle them.

My body was screaming to me, “it’s time to make a drastic change!”

Email is one of the most common triggers for social anxiety and productivity-related anxiety (the feeling that you’re not getting enough accomplished).

One reason email communication is so stressful is that it’s asynchronous, meaning there’s a delay between sending messages and receiving replies. There’s uncertainty about when we’ll get a response.

In addition, because we miss the opportunity for nonverbal communication through email, we cannot predict the tone or reasoning behind unanswered emails.  It leaves us to wonder if a failure to respond is legitimate; like a person being sick or experiencing frustration because they’ve just been yelled at by their boss. These factors indicate that email can feel very emotionally confusing and anxiety-provoking.

It seems that instant communication methods feel much better to us. With instant communication, we are referring to text messaging and communication platforms such as: Messenger, Whatsap, or chat in general.  With these messaging systems, communication is precise, short, and allows you to get the quick answers that you’re looking for. 

We are still at the point where email remains effective and is not going anywhere anytime soon; however, since email isn’t the only electronic communication that we receive, we need to set up boundaries across our communication channels to ensure that our productivity and mental health are kept in check.

So, where do we start?

1- Setting The Right Expectations

Depending on the environment, expectations around email are likely to be different, but setting ourselves up for success is always a good idea. 

When I worked in the law firm, emails were expected to be:

  1. Opened immediately
  2. Responded to almost as immediately

Thanks to push notifications, that immediately tell us when an email has arrived, (thanks a lot, Blackberry, circa 2003) many of us are checking emails and responding to them dozens of times per day. Not only is this completely impractical, but it actually makes managing our inboxes much more stressful and overwhelming.

You obviously cannot respond to emails immediately unless you have your inbox opened all day. And, if you have your inbox open all day, that means your attention is inevitably divided.  Being distracted is a terrible way to go through your workday.  

Just remember this: You don’t have to answer your emails instantly! 

I recommend to my clients to have an email policy in place and to discuss it with their client at the onset of the relationship. Most of my clients are entrepreneurs and parents; trying to grow a business while managing their personal lives. It is my responsibility as the manager of the relationship to set expectations with clients, especially when it comes to expectations around email communication.

You may also want to try setting boundaries with an autoresponder message. This allows you to let senders know when to expect a response from you. This way, they get the gratification of an immediate response without you having to read it and respond promptly.  Setting the expectation upfront will reduce follow up emails. Remember to preserve your boundaries at all times!

2- Separate Personal vs Email Accounts 

At first, I thought if I had all my emails coming to one email address, it would be easier to manage in one place. That was until all my 3 children were in elementary school and I started to get several emails per kid, in addition to their after school activities, sports, etc.  

Your personal email management is as important as your business email management. 

To avoid chaos, establish a new email for your personal communication. If you currently have one personal email, but you still feel like you are missing out on important communication regarding a specific topic, for instance- messages from school, reserve one email for school topics and your problem will be solved.

If your inbox is full of tags and folders and you have to spend time organizing them, perhaps it’s just better to open a new account just for that specific content.

Jamie Steele, founder of Tidy Your Time, recommends to open a junk email account. Use this account for any subscriptions or newsletters. She says this should reduce the overwhelm and will give you the sense of a fresh start.

Keep in mind that once you open multiple accounts, it is important to stick with the system! In my case, my old email was full of so much that I decided to open a fresh one for urgent conversations and committed to come back to the giant pile of inbox twice a day. At this point, it’s a backup of millions of conversations and I don’t see the point of even managing it. I just login, check important conversations and logout. I’ve given up on trying to organize it!

3- Stop Organizing Your Email Into Folders

A research conducted by IBM Research suggests that people who searched their inboxes found emails slightly faster than those who had filed them by folder. 

People who create complex folders indeed rely on these for retrieval, but these preparatory behaviors are inefficient and do not improve retrieval success. In contrast, both search and threading promote more effective finding.

In other words, the time spent setting up folders did not improve retrieval. People, instead, found that they now had multiple inboxes to go through, and even more so, started using their email software as a to-do manager. That’s definitely a bad idea; calendars, project management programs, and to-do list are more effective.

If you find yourself spending time “wanting to organize” your email inbox into folders, STOP IT. You need to be more efficient and more productive. Your digital files are not books. They have a great search system and you will find anything you want in just seconds. Let it go! 

Being effective is about doing the right things, while being efficient is about doing things right.

4- Delete Email App From Your Mobile Devices

Bear with me on this one. I deleted email apps from my phone because there was this incessant need to check, and also to reply quickly. This is one of the reasons why I called it “Email Bankruptcy”.

Deleting the apps and instead setting aside time to answer those emails thoughtfully was great not only for my relationships, but also for my productivity. 

I know that some of you will tell me “what if I have a prospect?”  Well, that kind of communication should be in your CRM. I deleted my email app, but my appointment app will still send me an alert if my office gets a new appointment request.

I thought about the entire prospecting process: lead, appointment request, assessment form, and all of them had a separate notification. I don’t need my email app to get the alerts!

5- Batch Your Email Checking

On a standard day (no fast-moving emergency situations) I check emails around 10:00am, 1:00pm and 5:00pm. I schedule these on my calendar like any other appointment.

As a chronic “quick-replier” this was insanely difficult to adapt to; however, it has become a complete game-changer now that I see the consistency of my high quality emails. Despite going out less frequently, my emails are more coherent, actionable and directed. Why? I’m sending them in a well-ordered manner, not dishing out replies from my iPhone as I’m getting into a cab. And, I no longer miss emails.  There’s no longer the “I saw it but I’ll get to it later” mentality and no more need to write a reminder that will be forgotten in 7 minutes.

As soon as I deleted my email app and set up a time to manually go into my email, my level of anxiety shifted. 

Just yesterday, when I logged in at 10 am, I had 2 emails and it took me less than 5 minutes to manage.  Then at 1 pm, 1 email that needed my attention. Then at 5 pm, no email required my attention immediately. 

It feels good to be in control of your calendar.

I think that we can all agree that the inundation of email messaging has reached unhealthy expectations in the workplace.  Understanding how to set boundaries and shift focus around email management is the key to our success. Rethinking how we interact with our emails and adjusting our email habits by using some, or all of these tips will allow us to decrease the overwhelm and to create more meaningful interactions with our clients and prospects.  

Whether we are in formal corporate environments, managing our own businesses, or keeping up with our children’s activities, it is important to learn how to manage our email system so that it doesn’t manage us.    

Hey! If productivity is one of your goals for this year and want to have accountability to reach your business goals, let’s chat!

How To Stay Focused At Your Home Office

Remote work, home office, or business from home are no longer futuristic.  There are roughly 15 million home-based businesses in the U.S. On the workforce, new survey data revealed that remote work is a major benefit for employees. In fact, 34% of U.S. workers would take a pay cut of up to 5% in order to work remotely. And those who do work remotely say they’re happy in their jobs 29% more than on-site workers. 

There are plenty of benefits to working from home. Better work-life balance, increased productivity/better focus, less stress, and no more wasting time on your soul-crushing commute! If you’re a parent, having the flexibility to work from home and spend time with your kids, is priceless 💃.

Remote work is wonderful. But it comes with its challenges. Remote workers need to be self-motivated and experts at time management, or else they will quickly realize that is hard to stay productive when working at home. 

If you’re working from home or considering to start and want to learn the best tips on how to be productive at your home office and stay focused, keep reading! 

Follow these 9 working from home tips to stay focused when you’re working remotely.

Have An Inspiring Working Space

It’s important to have a designated space, preferably a room where can work in isolation, away from distractions. However, don’t think that you need a spacious room to work from home. Even a corner, the kitchen counter, or a desk behind some furniture count! The main goal of assigning a space for your home office is to boost your creative thinking, get you energized, free of distractions, and ignite your productivity. 

Having a designated home office space also makes it easier to calculate percentages of home business use expenses that you can deduct on your income tax.

When you’re choosing the home office space in your home, remember to choose a location that has all the relevant wiring for the equipment you’re going to need, and space for all of your chosen home office equipment, including things such as filing cabinets. Otherwise, you’ll waste too much time wandering through your home looking for this or that. Plan your office design around the power, wireless reception, lighting and ventilation needs of your office space. 

If you’re going to consult with clients on the premises, you will need a “business-like” space (uncluttered by things such as children’s toys), and private. 

Silence Your Phone

Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you can allow yourself to be interrupted at any time. This includes notifications from text messages, emails, social media, and calls. Seriously, you get more things done by putting your phone in complete silence mode.

A quick scroll on a text message can turn into a major time suck. And just to clarify, I mean full silence mode. Not just vibrate. The buzz also interrupts.

Wake Up, Dress Up & Makeup

It will be tempting to stay in bed, on your pj’s, bring your laptop and just “work” from there. This is a dangerous habit that will put in danger the luxury of working from home.

Treat yourself like a serious professional! Get into a morning ritual where you take your shower, get dressed, do your hair (and makeup if possible). A recent study shows that people who dress better have more confidence, feel more powerful, and are more focused on details. 

Save Time With Online Shopping

Being at home might give you the impression that you have a lot of free time. You might think that since you don’t have co-workers interrupting you, coffee breaks, and distractions from listening to conversations, you can just sneak in some errands here and there. Just stay away from it! Again, it will put the luxury of working from home at risk! 

Instead of taking an extended “lunch hour” to get some groceries, take 10 minutes and order them online. Ever since I opted in for curbside pick up, I save up to 10 hours per month in grocery shopping, plus close to $500 by simply not going to the store. Talking about a win-win!

Find Your Rhythm

Now that you can make your own schedule, you will be able to find your own rhythm. Are you a morning person? Does creativity come easy to you in the morning or in the afternoon? 

If you’re starting working from home, you might not know your rhythm yet. Pay attention to your energy levels during the day. For example, I notice that from 11 am to 2 pm I am very alert, energized, and can be very productive. I schedule my “left-brain” work during that time and leave the creative work for either early in the morning or late evening.   

How about you? Can you dive in a spreadsheet full of stats, %, calculations, at 7 am? Then go for it! 

Train Your Brain To FOCUS 

When you don’t have the right time management skills, your calendar suffers. I say that it’s like your calendar has bugs that make the hours disappear. But it’s because you’re not having the ability to focus. No worries! Effective time management is a skill that comes with practice and luckily, you can train your brain!

To improve your time management skills, we first need to take inventory of how you spend your days so we can clean up those bugs and become more efficient.⁣

1) Acknowledge where you’re starting and be gentle with yourself. You have unique conditions that might require you to just do so much each day. We will get you to be more productive, but this process takes one day at a time. ⁣

2) Clean up your head. Very often we get distracted by our own thoughts. Those thoughts bring emotions and those emotions will take you to do the wrong actions. Typically it’s either self-sabotaging or procrastination. Stay away from that dangerous zone by writing down EVERYTHING that is in your mind. What are you worrying about at this very moment? Spill it ALL out – in writing.⁣

3) Let’s sort your pile of thoughts in 5 categories:⁣

Category 1: Things you need to do that are “me time”. Getting your nails done. Make your doctors’ appointments. Grocery shopping. ⁣

Category 2: Things you need to do that are “family duty”. I have 4 kids and 2 dogs. Thank goodness, my husband is simply amazing and helps me. Otherwise, I would not be able to process any other thought. Family duties will come and you need to just do those things that nobody else can do. Taking your kiddos to dance, gymnastics, swimming, soccer, playdates, birthday parties… Homework, after school program… You name it! Get it all out!!!! Write it down.⁣

Category 3: Your $$$$. These are income-generating activities. Actual activities to discuss business opportunities, period. Prospecting activities. NOT planning. NOT marketing.⁣

Category 4: Your actual work. Things you need to do to get paid. In my case, I run a media company but I also consult and coach. ⁣

Category 5: Research and development. Your personal and professional growth goes here. Are you working with a coach? (I can help!). Your time to read books, learn from tutorials, attend to seminars, or anything that gets you new skills goes here. ⁣

Once you sort your thoughts into these 5 categories, assign them colors, group them and block time to work in all of them together.  I use a very simple spreadsheet to plan my time management. It’s basically my time management definition, very practical. This allows me to work in my business the way I know I’m gonna be more productive and focused. 

No Tidying Up During Work Hours

Let’s be honest, not everyone can afford a cleaning service, though “afford” is a squishy word. And even if affordability is not an issue, the truth is, someone needs to maintain and organize the house. Someone will need to take the garbage out, do the laundry, empty the dishwasher. 

If you’re working from home, you will be tempted to tidy your kitchen, do laundry, and clean the floors during your working hours. But just because you’re someone who runs a business from home and has more flexibility, doesn’t mean that you’re making the best choice by tidy up your house at 11 am. That can be your most productive time of the day! 

How do you spend less time on all those things? 

When people said to me in interviews “But not everyone can afford a cleaning service,” I always had an answer: it doesn’t cost anything to lower your standards. Seriously, drop it.  Unless you’re the CEO of a cleaning business and you’re broadcasting your home to the world 24-7 so they can see you’re the cleanest person on the planet, you don’t need to have a perfectly tidy house ALL THE TIME.

If you can’t resist the temptation of cleaning the dirty dishes from breakfast or lunch during your work hours, I have a very simple rule: stay away from it. Don’t go to the kitchen. Hibernate in your home office until you get your work done, PERIOD.

FOCUS On Your Top 6 Things For The Day 

I know that some people use the ONE thing for the day and others do 3 things daily.  The idea is to commit to finish 1, 3, or X amount of tasks per day, no matter what.

I prefer to use The Ivy Lee Method- a simple daily routine for achieving peak productivity:

  1. At the end of each workday, write down the six most important things you need to accomplish tomorrow. Do not write down more than six tasks.
  2. Prioritize those six items in order of their true importance.
  3. When you arrive tomorrow, concentrate only on the first task. Work until the first task is finished before moving on to the second task.
  4. Approach the rest of your list in the same fashion. At the end of the day, move any unfinished items to a new list of six tasks for the following day.
  5. Repeat this process every working day.

Ditch Multitasking 

The myth of multi-tasking is that being busy is synonymous with being better. I’m the first to admit that I am terrible at this. Sometimes I joke and say that I have ADD. It’s the constant need to take a look at multiple screens at a time. 

The truth is, having fewer priorities leads to better work.  When your brain works without interruptions, your ideas flow much faster. 

Study world-class experts in nearly any field—athletes, artists, scientists, teachers, CEOs—and you’ll discover one characteristic runs through all of them: focus. The reason is simple. You can’t be great at one task if you’re constantly dividing your time in ten different ways. 

Mastery requires focus and consistency. 

Big Announcement – Coming Up

My upcoming book, Born to Be YOU-Nicorn has a chapter about Optimizing Your Life. So many times you think that in order to achieve more, you need to do more. However, it’s quite the opposite. 

To be more productive, you might just have to remove activities that are not related to your goals. 

Successful people spend 60% of their time working on their income-generating activities, and 40% of the time doing other fun things! 

Get my book updates by signing up here.

How I Discovered the Secret to More Productivity

My friend, client, and now mentor, Melynda (the CEO of Order to Everything), gave me a life-changing present for Christmas: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo.

This gift came at the perfect time. I had just watched Made For More from Rachel Hollis (read my review of that documentary). I was inspired as heck! For sure, one of the main factors for living a great life is ENVIRONMENT.

It got me thinking… How can I make sure I live in a productive environment? To me, this means:

  • Laundry is done
  • Home is clean
  • Car is organized!

While I was thinking about all of this, Marie Kondo’s book fell onto my lap, thanks to Melynda.

I got hooked and booked Melynda to give me specific solutions to fix some areas where I needed to strategize my space.

As a mom of 4, CEO, wife, and community influencer, my agenda is very full. I never have time to do chores at home.  Even when I get someone to clean it, the house won’t be in order.

As I found out, though, cleaning and order are two different worlds. That’s why I want to share my journey and the lessons I learned.

See more pics from my journey in this Facebook album.

3 Big Lessons I Learned on the Journey to Productivity and Order

I gained so much from this experience. These are my biggest takeaways:

1. Everything You Have Must Have a Place

That’s right – everything you own must have its own place to live.

After I found a place for all my stuff, I noticed the shift. When I saw my tidy drawers with every single piece of clothing fitting inside, it was an instant WOW. It’s been almost a month and I am proud to say that I am keeping them intact!

2. Make Little Moves Consistently

This is a big lesson and applies to the tidying process. Of course, I need to organize 10 other drawers, the garage, the office, etc. But, you need to focus on one small goal at a time. Finish that goal, then move on.

For me, it all started with the space where I spend most of my time – my bedroom.

Once my bedroom was done, right there, it increased my energy by 50%! Instant boost!

3. Claiming a Victory Empowers You

Melynda organized my clothes and my closet and suggested that I get hangers of the same color. Oh my God. That was glorious. I did it and it looked so nice, I got empowered to do even more!

This is a big lesson for entrepreneurs. Sometimes you just need a little bit of help, and then all the ideas flow!

Productivity and Order in Your Life Are Totally Achievable

The best part about these lessons is you can apply them to other goals, too, beyond just tidying up your life. They’re universal.

If you agree, if you’re inspired, or you have a similar story, let’s connect! Make sure you’re following me on Instagram @coachjessicacampos. And hey, if you need to chat, I’m here!