REDMOND, Wash. — April 5, 2011 — If you’re anything like most email users, your inbox is probably a mess. At this moment, your multiple accounts are overflowing with hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of messages from friends, family and coworkers, and with newsletters, coupons, special offers and spam offering amazing deals on replica watches and prescription medications. It’s OK to admit this fact. You’re not alone.
Windows Live Hotmail features can help people organize and get ahead of the growing volume of email. According to a recent survey by Microsoft, the average American has three different email accounts and an average of 200 unread messages per person.
According to a recent survey by Microsoft, the average American has three different email accounts and an average of 200 unread messages per person.
Given the number of electronic messages flying around each day, it should come as little surprise the survey also found that people feel overwhelmed by the amount of email they receive.
Sixty percent of people surveyed said the amount of junk and low-priority email (such as newsletters and shopping promotions) they receive is problematic, while 70 percent of respondents said they feel they are missing important messages amid all the clutter. Still, many people also said they are convinced they will one day get through all of the messages in their inboxes.
This “save until later” approach to email, combined with the merciless, never-ending electronic hailstorm many face each day, leads to an inevitable email backlog. And, unless addressed, the situation only grows worse over time.
Dr. Robin Zasio of the A&E series “Hoarders”
The Cost of E-Clutter
If you lived in your inbox, you would never invite a houseguest over. The clutter would be too embarrassing for you to bear.
According to Dr. Robin Zasio of the A&E series “Hoarders,” digital clutter, like physical clutter, can lead to stress.
“There can be a feeling of fear and anxiety associated with letting go of emails,” Zasio said. “Many people want to feel like all their email is always accessible in case they need it in the future.”
Zasio also said that some who hang on to email for long periods of time can feel overwhelmed by uncertainty as messages pile up.
“Trying to make decisions about which emails to keep and which to discard can become paralyzing,” she said. “An excessive amount of time can be spent trying to figure out how to manage all the email, which can take away from other important life activities.”
The Microsoft survey found that 56 percent of respondents admitted to keeping emails for three weeks or longer, and 31 percent admitted to keeping email one year or more.
It’s Not Your Fault (Not Entirely, Anyway)
It would be difficult to blame email users for their inability to manage this e-deluge because the amount of email going around out there is staggering.
Earlier this year, Web monitoring site Pingdom reported that 107 trillion email messages were sent in 2010. Yes, trillion. To help wrap your head around that figure, let’s break it down. This equates to:
In the time it took you to read those statistics, another 17 million email messages were sent. There goes another 3.4 million.
Zasio is quick to point out there is a distinct difference between a person who hangs on to email and someone who hoards items in the home. It’s also important to note that hanging on to email does not necessarily indicate a deep-seated anxiety disorder. Many allow email messages to pile up by design and use their email functionality to file them away and maintain inbox order.
Professional Help and Hotmail to the Rescue
Zasio says that one of the best ways people can be more efficient with email is to learn to use the features of their email system. She also offered a few tips for how people can rethink and reorganize their email to get their digital lives under control.
Consolidate and create folders. Given the number of emails sent every second of every day, and the fact that most people have multiple email accounts to juggle, it’s important to have an organizational system in place. Windows Live Hotmail lets you consolidate all your email accounts to one email hub so you can quickly search and organize conversations, group similar messages, and file away messages you need to keep or reference later.
Manage inbox clutter with conversation view. With Windows Live Hotmail you can condense several conversations into one view for easy-to-follow dialogue with friends and family. You can also arrange email by date or individual. This will allow you to create a system of organization that rescues email you want from the clutter and reduces the likelihood of missing important conversations.
Don’t procrastinate. Many people get overwhelmed by too many incoming emails. So, rather than deal with them, they ignore them instead. Procrastination can hinder your inbox organization. Take time to respond, file or delete email as it arrives. The longer you wait, the more it piles up and the bigger the clutter problem becomes.
Schedule and commit to uninterrupted organization time. With so many distractions, it’s important to establish a time each day to process mail and ensure a clean and organized inbox. Commit to a regular schedule that is free of distractions (such as Facebook and Twitter) so you can deal with messages that need your immediate attention and purge those that don’t.
Make a clean sweep. Windows Live Hotmail’s “Sweep” feature allows you to manage email clutter. With one click you can get rid of all chosen mail in your inbox. You can also sweep future mails. For instance, incoming newsletters can be directed to an assigned folder, while email you know is junk can be sent directly to the deleted folder. The feature also lets you block emails from unwanted senders.
Recognizing that some people need more help than others when it comes to clutter, Windows Live Hotmail recently launched its Hotmail Sweep: Messiest Desk Contest. One winner will be awarded the title of “Messiest Desk” and receive a year’s worth of housekeeping services for their home (valued at $2,500).
To enter, people must visit the Windows Live Hotmail Facebook page and “like” it. From there, they’ll be directed to a page where they can upload and share a photo of the mess they’ve allowed their desk or office to become.
They’ll also be asked to write a short essay explaining why they feel most deserving and in need of an intervention.
Windows Live Hotmail will select five finalists, and the Facebook community will vote on which finalist is most in need of help.
Submissions will be accepted until April 15, and voting will take place April 20–22.