Maren Kate Donovan, CEO of Zirtual
Courtesy of Maren Kate Donovan
By Maren Kate Donovan
March 12, 2015

MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: How do you manage email overload? is written by Maren Kate Donovan, CEO of Zirtual.

How do I manage email overload? Simple. I don’t. Email overload is a state of mind, which can be avoided if managed effectively.

When I first started Zirtual, I constantly felt burnt out from endless emails that needed to be addressed. I would wake up with at least 100 emails to respond to — making my mornings pretty exhausting. I couldn’t take it anymore, so I came up with three email don’ts:

  1. Don’t check emails before noon (use that time for creative work)
  2. Don’t email late at night
  3. Don’t email on weekends

On top of these rules, I started delegating the organization of my emails by having my ZA (zirtual assistant) apply rules (using the rule wizard in Outlook) to certain messages, sending them into appropriate folders organized by priority. For example, all of Zirtual’s weekly reports are formatted similarly. So, I have a rule that looks for those subject line keywords and automatically places those emails in a designated folder.

These simple rules have lifted a massive amount of stress off my shoulders and increased the relevance of emails coming my way. People now know that if it’s urgent, they should call or text me. Otherwise, send me an email and I’ll get to it during my normal routine.

Read all answers to the MPW Insider question: How do you manage email overload?

How to become an email guru by Kara Goldin, founder and CEO of Hint Water.

Email etiquette: 3 do’s and don’ts by Tonya Love, manager of business relations and marketing at Xerox Research Center Europe.

How to empty your inbox (and keep it empty) by Julie Larson-Green, CXO of applications and services group at Microsoft.

Hate email? Here’s 5 ways to deal by Sheri Hickok, chief engineer of Next Generation Full Size Trucks at General Motors.

How to manage your inbox (before it manages you) by Camille Preston, founder of AIM Leadership.

Ivanka Trump: 5 tips for managing email overload by Ivanka Trump, executive vice president of development and acquisitions at the Trump Organization.

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