Here’s an easy trick for keeping an inbox from filling up: Read e-mail in batches.
Rather than scanning your inbox for urgent messages, plucking out a few and leaving the rest until later:
• Commit yourself to processing messages in batches, moving them into the folders you’ve already set up.
Tip: Keep it simple with folders titled, “Follow up,” “Hold” and “Archive.” You can then search within folders for key words to find the message you need.
• Use the two-minute rule. If it takes less than 120 seconds to handle a message, do it right away and get rid of it.
• Unsubscribe. Take a moment to remove yourself from any e-mail lists that aren’t bringing value to your day.
Tip: When you’re dealing with a large backlog of unread e-mails, make quick work of it by giving yourself a sentence-number limit.
Example: Designer Mike Davidson limits his e-mail replies to five sentences max, and includes a link to http://five.sentenc.es in his e-mail signature, so people will understand his philosophy.
— Adapted from “Extreme Makeover: The E-Mail Inbox Edition,” Gina Trapani, Harvard Business blog.