Many people don’t know this but your inbox is supposed to be at ZERO. An inbox is not meant for storage, that’s what subfolders are for. In-boxes are meant to be emptied.
Let’s face it. An unemptied inbox is essentially clutter. And clutter sucks! When you have a cluttered inbox, it’s hard to really focus in on what you need to accomplish. After all, you have a bunch of stuff vying for your attention.
Lawyerist.com recommends Merlin Mann’s Inbox Zero method of maintaining an empty inbox. You can learn more about that technique here.
The premise of Inbox Zero is to really zoom in on what you need to do and sort the remaining items into useful places. The basic idea is to separate your email into four folders:
Do/Respond (or Do Now)
Do Later (or Defer)
Waiting (or Delegated)
To Be Read
Then, at least daily (but preferably a few times a day), move your incoming email into the various folders. Every time you open an email – with the exception of something you can do in a minute or two, which you should just get out of the way — put it into one of these folders. In addition, get rid of what you don’t need by archiving or deleting it. Keep in mind then, that not everything belongs in these four folders (but beyond archiving, you shouldn’t use more than these four).