I talk about the concept of inbox zero quite a lot on this blog. The idea is simple; get your email inbox emptied every day by properly dealing with. You don’t necessary need to do everything that your inbox is asking for, but at least address them all. This post explains the idea in a bit more detail.
A problem I’m seeing lately is that people save emails because they’re going to get to them “some day”. When you have hundreds of emails in your inbox, “some day” will never happen for #217 on that list.
My favorite example of this isn’t related to email at all, but illustrates it perfectly. One of the early episodes of “The Office” was when they held the “Office Olympics”. In that episode they created gold medals for the participants made out of paper clips and yogurt lids. Ryan received his, then threw it away the very same day, stating:
I figured I could throw it away now, or I could keep it for a couple months and then throw it away.
Here’s that clip:
Treat your email the same way. Work through the normal rules first; reply when you can, forward to others, add to your calendar or task list, etc. However, if it’s clear that you’ll never have a chance to deal with a particular email, delete it now and save yourself some time.
The more you can foresee your future intentions, the easier it is to keep your inbox clean today.