1. Don’t Reply
If you want to stop receiving so much e-mail, the number one rule is don’t reply to it. The more you reply, the more you will get back. If you break that chain, you are already on a good path to kill most of the e-mail you get.
2. Study Your Inbox
Next, study your inbox. Evaluate the kind of personal interactions that are taking place there. For example, you may find out that you subscribe to a hundred newsletters and you don’t read any of them.
After you’ve studied the way you use your inbox, try to group e-mails together into categories — newsletters, Q&As, e-mails from family members, etc.
3. Tackle One Area a Week
After you’ve evaluated you intake, slowly move one of those groups away from your inbox. Don’t try to cover them all in one go, because it will be too much.
One week, unsubscribe from newsletters and try and find alternative sources such as a feed reader or relevant Twitter accounts.
You may find that you are bombarded with e-mail questions from colleagues, and that you get one particular question 40 times from 40 different people in one month.
So the next week, sort out the Q&A. The way to deal with that is to set up a blog offering the answers. The blog will be indexed by Google, and your answers will be available to everyone out there. This means you are no longer part of the bottle neck, and you are helping people to feed themselves with the information that they need.
Simple steps indeed. I am currently sorting out all these newsletters again and trying to evangelise people by helping them sharing documents. It´s still work in progress since years. Because it is not a question of tools. We had Lotus Notes for years, we have Google Apps, Sharepoint, Wikis and all the helpfull collaboration solutions. But still people mail attachments back and forth.
It is hard to change old habits. But with a new generation of users in the corporate universe this might change. They grew up with Facebook & Co, and they use e-mail today just to write a message to their parents.