What can be said about email which hasn’t been said before? They are the 21st Century answer to direct marketing, big business communication and friendly banter.

However, email’s prevalence has become its downfall. I am sure many people who read this will feel my pain when I say that after a hard day’s training away from the desk, I get back to find my inbox overflowing.

At least my Learning and Development job has forced me to become more organised; I have picked up a few tips over the years to increase my Outlook organisation.

Spending the time to sort through your inbox every day is essential. Allocate an hour or so every day to attend to your inbox. David Silverman from HBR calls this ‘daily scrubbing’. I have long ago learnt the hard way that leaving an inbox sort-out until the end of the week (or month?) got a bit stressful, to say the least.

Keep your inbox ‘minimal’; it’s much nicer to be looking at 10 emails rather than 100. If something is not being worked on anymore then file it away in personal folders – out of sight, out of mind, as they say. Sally McGhee’s article on the 4 D’s of email management is a fantastic resource on how to action your inbox; Do it, Delete it, Delegate it and Defer it.

There is a saying in Human Resources: “Never delete anything”. In this age of near-boundless data storage, there is no reason to delete anything apart from spam about Viagra, weight loss, etc. If in doubt, save the email.

Become assertive! If you’re being copied in to random emails that quite simply you have nothing – and will have nothing to do with, a polite note to the sender communicating your feelings will put this pet peeve to bed.

The most effective tip I have doesn’t actually involve email at all. Always ask yourself, “Does it need to be emailed?”  Think about alternative communication. Voicemail? How about that strange concept of face-to-face communication? In the words of Melinda Emerson,

“Where dialogue is needed, email is not.”

Email is a wonderful opportunity to become more productive, but make it work for you; find your preferred mailbox management techniques and soon you will find your email waterfall becoming little more than a trickle.

(Photo credit: Many Small 3D Emails via Shutterstock)

Love this article?