I am sure you have already heard about Inbox Zero by Merlin Mann, I love it and have modified to to fit my own needs. My process is very simple I classify all the emails I get into two categories,
- Ones that I need to process and delete which is a very broad category and,
- Ones that I need to backup which is a very narrow one.
Most of the emails once I process them, I delete them and by that I mean not just sending it to the trash box but emptying it out of my trash as well. Many people inadvertently turn there trash box into a mini backup folder. Which is really bad, if you have something to backup, well back it up, trash is well just trash and just as we do not pileup trash in our homes, we should not pileup trash in our mailboxes either. Also I process my email about once in an hour or when ever I remember to do it, keeping my mail open all the time is extremely distracting and I got better things to do than constantly processing my mail like a rat running in a wheel cage.
Second category of mails are the ones that I backup, I have a gmail account that I use specifically to do this, I have not found any other tool better capable of searching emails than gmail. What kind of emails do I backup ? only the ones that I have read and know I will need to refer back to it sometime in the future, like an explanation to some query. (Please don’t confuse this with an explain plan to a sql query :-)). An email has be of a lot of value to me in-order for it to go to backup. Think of your backup as a very precious resource. Clutter is your worst enemy even when it comes to email.
And that’s about it, armed with my system I have conqured my inbox, how about you ? What do you use ?