Archival-Based Email Inbox Control
Email has been around in some form for quite some time and still plays a huge role in businesses and educational institutions. Email has it's own weaknesses by being modeled after the traditional snailmail architecture. Email is terrible for real-time collaboration but decent for large scope updates and communication. Usually members of a business or education institution are immediately setup with an email account; it becomes the method of communication that all users are guaranteed to have access to.
Now, the effectiveness of email is still up for debate, but the fact is that it is still used as a primary communication tool in many instances. For users in such cases, email sprawl is a real issue that has to be dealt with. Funny enough, students today are more unprepared to deal with email than their older counterparts because they've had access to other communication tools through social media: AOL Instant Messenger, Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, and others.
To help keep your sanity and email sprawl from happening, switch to an archival- based email workflow. Archive emails as as they are read and completed to prevent emails from piling up.
A mostly clutter free inbox
Immediately off the bat, archiving your emails results in a cleaner inbox - the redundant announcements, updates and messages are out of your inbox. The emails that are left should be ones that still need a follow-up. Computer systems come with search options - why not take advantage of that if you need to find an email in the future? A double-stuffed inbox won't allow you to find those emails any quicker.
A clutter free inbox allows you to focus on the more important issues at hand - if the email isn't archived, there is probably a good reason for it.
Since emails that don't really need to be in the inbox don't last long, the emails that do need some sort of action are leftover. This builds an almost to-do list-like environment in your inbox. Once you're done with an email, you should immediately archive it and get it out of the way; you're done with that email! Out of sight, out of mind.
An additional tip
One skill that is especially important for this workflow is the ability to skim through emails and figure out which ones are not important. The less time that is spent on unimportant emails, the more time is available for the important emails. Spending too much time on the unimportant tasks can really be a huge mental drain. You can't fight all of the battles, but at least you can fight the ones that are most important to you.
In general, I've found that this workflow works relatively well - my inbox is kept relatively well-trimmed so my brain doesn't explode from all the emails that come in. I'm part of several projects, so it's extremely important that I keep on top of my emails. Although I don't particularly enjoy the email format, I find that keeping on top of things makes me a lot less stressed out about the whole affair.
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