The never-ending pileup of emails stresses out many of us. Here's a strategy from Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh which might help you ditch the guilt and stress of dealing with email.
Photo by Ekkehard Streit
The basic premise of the Yesterbox technique is to process yesterday's inbox instead of today's:
Your "to do" list each day is simply yesterday's email inbox (hence, "Yesterbox"). The great thing about this is when you get up in the morning, you know exactly how many emails you have to get through, there's a sense of progress as you process each email from yesterday and remove it from your inbox, and there's actually a point when you have zero emails left to process from yesterday.
There is actually a sense of completion when you're done, which is amazing. I would say that on half the days, I'm actually completely with all my email obligations by NOON, which has been an incredibly freeing feeling. Even though my responses to most emails are not the same day, I actually end up being MORE responsive than I have been in the past, because most people will get a response the day after (as opposed to a week after, a month after, or several months after which used to happen all the time because I would always procrastinate on the hard emails).
The other rules of this strategy include not replying to any emails that come in today if they can wait 48 hours without causing harm and that before you can read any of today's emails, you have to process 10 from yesterday.
Of course, if you have any urgent emails that need acting on right away, you should read those. However, not many emails really fall into that category.
Check out Hsieh's write up of his technique for more advice if you'd like to try it.