E-mail can be very stressful! As you sit at your computer, trying to get things done, and more and more e-mail comes in, your "to do" list keeps getting bigger and bigger!

E-mail can be very stressful! As you sit at your computer, trying to get things done, and more and more e-mail comes in, your "to do" list keeps getting bigger and bigger!

About two years ago I made the conscious decision to take back control of my e-mail and not let it get me stressed out. I was really inspired by a presentation from Merlin Mann from 43 Folders that I heard at Real Estate Connect SF a while back. He promotes the concept of "Inbox Zero."

I don’t think there will be a day for me where I achieve that goal — but there are few ‘rules’ I live by when it comes to e-mail to keep it manageable.

Here are 5 things rules I live by to help me stay sane — and also help to keep my Inbox to 20-40 e-mails max at any one time.

1. Don’t have your e-mail open all day long, and turn off those "bings." E-mail can be the most distracting thing. You are working on something and then "bing!" you have an incoming e-mail and you get distracted. Make sure to take the "bings" off your phone, too!

I check my e-mail probably every 15-20 minutes or so. I check it more often if I am waiting for something deadline-driven, but otherwise I don’t let it dictate my to-do list of that day.

2. Work backwards. Read your oldest messages first. Your goal is to move fast — get through those e-mails that are a couple of days old. Reply, delete or file — and then move on to today’s e-mails.

3. Deal with e-mail once. It’s like snail mail — don’t go to the mailbox, grab all your bills and junk and then leave it in a pile. Stand by the trash, throw out the junk — put the bills where they need to go and then move on.

When you get an e-mail, don’t read it and then let it sit it your Inbox. Either delete it, reply and then delete, or reply and then file into a folder. Within your e-mail, make sure you have folders or labels set up.

You can set them up by month, by project, by client name — whatever makes most sense to you and your business. If you are an agent, make a folder for each client. Every e-mail you get goes right in there, and out of your inbox.

4. It’s the end of the day. Get your inbox to your comfort level. What is your comfort level? Zero? Ten? Twnenty? Fifty? Whatever that is, during the last 15 minutes of your work day clean up your inbox.

5. Don’t treat your email like a to-do list. I keep a running Word document called "working on" that I save to my desktop. As new e-mail comes in, if it requires action on my part (more than a simple reply), I cut and paste any pertinent info from the e-mail onto my list and then delete or file the e-mail away.

Otherwise your e-mail box lies stagnant with all these e-mails you have read but have to take action on. What I like best about this method is that I group things by category on my "working on" list. So for an agent, you could group things by: clients, prospects, marketing and more. This has worked really well for me.

At the end of the day, I still battle with my e-mail — but I try very hard to be smart and move fast through e-mail!

Do you have any tips you’d like to add? Share them in the comment section below. (But don’t e-mail me, Ha-ha! Just kidding!)

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