Like many people I know - I receive hundreds of emails per day. It is a challenge to manage the information included in them while at the same time, keeping your inbox free of clutter.
- Use folders! I find that a lot of email users don't even bother to store emails into folders. Rather, all of their emails are in their Inbox! How on earth can you find anything? Every email system out there has folders for managing email. Use them, create as many folders as you like or need for your proposes.
- Number your folders to organize them the way you want. By default, most email programs list your folders alphabetically. However, if Venders are more important than Clients and you want Venders to appear at the top of your folders list (or in my case I have a "Priority" folder), start the name of the folder with a number!. The folders in my saved folder are actually labeled as such: '10. Priority','20. Clients', and '30. Vendors'. This allows me to control the order of my folders. Why do I use 10, 20, and 30? Well, that is so I can quickly change the order between them or insert a new one without having to renumber the rest. I can simply name a folder '25. Partners' and it will show up between 20 and 30 without having to renumber the rest. I should also point out that all of these folders are under a main folder called 'saved' so that the order of my main folders is maintained.
- Delete old items from your "sent" folder. In outlook, by default, all emails you send are stored in your sent folder. Every few months, I go in and delete everything in my sent folder which is older than 6 months. This keeps the overall size of my mailbox down while making it easy to search when I need something. If there is a specific message you want to hold on to - simply move it to another folder.
- Use Rules to highlight and manage emails. In Outlook you can go to the Tools menu and select "Organize" to apply filters and rules to email in your inbox. One particularly helpful feature for me is to color code email from specific/important people. This makes the process of prioritizing email that much easier.
- Act on email you receive within X number of hours or days. If anything bloats up an inbox it is doing nothing with the email you receive. Take a few minutes each day to actually "process" your email. Respond to those who need information, forward emails to others who need the information more than you, file emails into their folders, or delete messages you no longer need. It is amazing how quickly it can get out of hand if you neglect it.
For a more extreme view on email management - I recommend reading this blog post by Tim Ferris (Author of 4-hour workweek).