My standard practice is to clear out my inbox as one of the first tasks in my daily routine, first thing in the morning.
Today I started at 7:30 and then had some appointments start at 9:00. I wasn’t able to get through all of my email. I think I will be able to make some time later this afternoon to get the rest of it taken care of, but by then there will be a lot of new messages.
I prefer to get all of it taken care of right at the beginning of the day, and then maybe continue zeroing out new email every hour or every four hours. This always works best when at the very first round, first thing in the morning, you can get everything dealt with.
So what do you do when you aren’t able to get through everything the first time? You need to get up earlier.
Sometimes you do need to do seasons where you have to let things build up in the working folders, as I’ve blogged on previously. And sometimes you need to take “email vacations,” as I’ve also blogged on.
But as a standard practice, which is my plan for this week and most weeks, you need to zero out your inbox every morning at least — without having anything leftover for later in the day (except new stuff that comes). When the time that takes doesn’t fit, get up earlier.
You have to deal with those emails at some point. Whether you deal with them now or in three days, they are going to take the same amount of time (nuance: though sometimes email creates more email, which is the rationale behind email vacations).
The other thing you can do is implement strategies to reduce your email volume (discussed in How To Get People to Send You Less Email). But if you are going to be keeping up with your email, at root one of the basic things you need to do is make time for it.