Email Overload

The amount of email I receive everyday is just ridiculous. Between the support emails from users of my websites, normal college emails, people who want to “grab coffee”, and high school / college students asking for advice, I find myself spending hours in my inbox every day.

I always reply to every email I receive (directly addressed to me). My thinking is: If someone took the time to send me a message, I owe them a response. It’s a matter of courtesy.

I’ve kept this policy for the last 6 months – even during the height of the YouTube Instant shenanigans.

But I’m beginning to re-think the merits of this decision.

Even with all the Gmail filters I use (3 pages worth of them) I still can’t manage to keep my inbox empty. I seriously dislike spending more than an hour a day answering email. Yet, I keep doing it.

I don’t know what to do.

I could stop replying to random emails from people I don’t know. That would eliminate like half the burden. But if I’m going to do that, then I should also remove my email address from my blog. Then, I’d probably miss out on connecting with some interesting people. Everything’s a trade-off.

I didn’t write this blog post to brag. I’m looking for advice about what to do. Especially if you’re in a similar situation and find it hard to keep up with your email.

What should I do? How do you deal with email overload? Please share your thoughts.

Update (May 9)

This whole thing reminds me of how Donald Knuth doesn’t use email:

I have been a happy man ever since January 1, 1990, when I no longer had an email address. I’d used email since about 1975, and it seems to me that 15 years of email is plenty for one lifetime.

Update #2 (May 10)

Gmail recently wrote a blog post called How to set up Gmail to power through hundreds of messages each day. In it, they suggested the Auto Advance Lab as a nice time saver. I’m pretty amazed at how much it helps. I feel like I just plowed through my mail about 2x faster than usual with this Lab turned on.

Update #3 (May 17)

I’ve pretty much got it under control now. The Auto Advance Lab combined with lots of Gmail filters helped a lot. I’ve also started to ignore generic emails from job recruiters.

(If you liked this, you might like Travels in Japan.)

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Feross Aboukhadijeh

I'm Feross, an entrepreneur, programmer, open source author, and mad scientist.

I maintain 100+ packages on npm. All my code is freely accessible on GitHub and funded by my supporters. I now offer a support contract for companies and teams.

I build innovative projects like WebTorrent, a streaming torrent client for the web, WebTorrent Desktop, a slick torrent app for Mac/Windows/Linux, and StandardJS, a JavaScript style guide, linter, and automatic code fixer.

I also work on fun projects like BitMidi, a free MIDI file database, Play, a music video app, and Study Notes, a study tool with college essay examples.

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