How to manage your email inbox effectively

These days, most people are bombarded with enormous amount of emails. Handling all these emails has turned the email from a productivity tool into an productivity reducer. Everyone seems to have his/her way of handling the influx of emails. Some boast very low inbox count but has a hard time finding any emails. Some would let their inbox turn into a reservoir of emails without an easy way to find any email. I, as a manager, has to oversee over 5~10 active projects at a time and I often have to plow through 300+ emails a day on average and I still have no trouble finding emails as far back as 7 years ago. I don’t claim to be an expert in email but I would like to share my ways of managing my emails:

1. Create a huge trash folder. Delete irrelevant emails relentlessly without filing. Filing someday-maybe-important emails are simply too time consuming. Copy your trash file every quarter or month to another named file and then purge the Trash file. Purging the Trash file would make the email deletion faster. These saved Trash files became your “circular” file. You may want to keep 3~6 months of trash file around in case you don’t want to miss anything important and would make your email deletion process more decisive and thorough.
2. File or delete as you read each email – read it and rid it. Try not to skim because you’ll mostly likely forget to read it again and miss an important email (like the ones from your boss).
3. If an email needs to be replied, click “reply” and save the email right away and then take your time to compose the email throughout the work day as needed. This ends up to be your to-reply list. Saving the email right away is an insurance against the frequent events of the email client crashes.
4. Use multi-level subfolders to file relevant emails for future reference. Try to keep within 3 levels, otherwise it gets very hard to find the folder and very troublesome to expand and contract folders.
5. Have a pen or pencil ready to jot down important to-do things to work on as you read the emails.
6. Set a moving window of emails you want to keep in your inbox. This is the same as setting a cutoff date of the oldest emails you want to keep and on a weekly or biweekly basis to purge/file emails to maintain the same window. For example, if you set a window of 3 months and today is May 1st, you should try to delete/file the emails up to February 1st. Then in two weeks on May 14th, you should try to delete/file the emails up to February 14th and so on. This way you would keep the inbox reasonable fresh. Besides, it gets easier to delete old email as they become less relevant.
7. Turn on the thread feature of the mail readers then file/delete emails of the entire thread – much faster.
8. Proactively get out of aliases that you’re no longer interested. Or set a spam filter to filter these emails out.

Please feel free to comment or add your tips.