Below is a listing of our top 10 tips for keeping your e-mail inbox clean. Following these suggestions will help allow you to keep your inbox clean and your e-mail experience more enjoyable.
Setup rules, filters, or labels
All e-mail programs and online e-mail services today have rules, filter, or label system that enables you to automatically move and otherwise organize incoming e-mail. Using this effectively can help organize your e-mail and get to what's most important first. Below are some suggestions for rules we'd suggest setting up first.
Move important and unimportant e-mails to a folder of their own.
Highlight or set priority to certain addresses. For example, a rule could be created to highlight any user that's found in your address book.
Filter out common spam words that get into your inbox, e.g. Viagra.
In programs that support it setup a rule to mark messages that may not be important as read. This can help eliminate the stress you get when opening your e-mail and seeing hundreds of unread e-mails.
If you're getting a lot of spam filter your e-mail through Gmail.
Don't be afraid to delete
After reading e-mail always take action on that e-mail. Don't save it for later or move it into a folder to be forgot about. If you're unable to take action on the e-mail, delegate it to someone else, or postpone it for later that day delete it. Every e-mail doesn't need a response and there is no reason to save an e-mail that's going to be deleted months later.
Automatic replies, FAQs, and canned responses
If you find yourself using the same reply over and over creating a list of your frequent replies or using a tool such as one of the ones listed below can help make replying to these e-mails even faster.
Thunderbird Quicktext - Fantastic Mozilla Thunderbird e-mail add-on.
Lifehacker Texter - Easy to use script tool that can be used in anywhere in Windows including e-mail.
AutoHotkey - Another great tool although much more advanced. However, this tool can be used to automate anything on the computer.
Keep it simple
Many times people over complicate their e-mail by creating dozens of different folders to help organize their e-mails. Keep it simple don't have dozens of different folders to organize your e-mail into.
If there is no way getting around your need for folders in e-mail use the rules to automatically filter your messages into the folders. This saves hundreds of hours you may be spending thinking about and organizing each of the e-mails you receive.
Always do quick short replies
When replying to any of your e-mails try to keep the reply as short as possible and don't spend too much time on an individual e-mail. At most we suggest spending no more than five minutes on a single e-mail and avoid anything longer than three paragraphs.
You're e-mail is not a calendar or to-do list
Many times a person’s inbox is full because they're treating it as a calendar of things that they need to do. Do not use your e-mail for this. Have a separate program or text document that keeps a list of things you need to do or that keep track of your calendar of events.
Unsubscribe from newsletters and disable notifies
Although you may have had good intentions when subscribing to a newsletter or other e-mail list these are often distracting and often clutter your e-mail. Unsubscribe from any newsletter you haven't been reading.
The same is true for notifications from social network sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter you may be receiving. Disable all notifications about posts made on your wall, new friends or followers, etc. Not only do these clutter your inbox they'll often distract you.
Don't reply to spam
If spam sneaks past your protection or rules never reply to it. delete it.
Keep at it but not too much
Try to read your e-mails at least once daily or every hour depending on the amount of e-mail you receive.
However, don't live in your e-mail. Create a schedule where you check your e-mail in regular intervals and then ignore it all other times. If you have any notification about new incoming e-mails disable these or close your e-mail program or e-mail web page.
Delete some more
Finally, if after following all the above steps you still have e-mails that are weeks old delete them. If you have a hard time deleting e-mails create a folder and move all old e-mails into that folder. Often after a few weeks have past the e-mail becomes too old to reply to.
originally published at: http://www.computerhope.com/tips/tip88.htm