No doubt you've opened an e-mail and thought, "Hmmm, not sure what to do with this. I'll deal with it later!"—and promptly closed the message. If you do this over and over again, it doesn't take long to end up with several hundred (or thousand) messages in your Inbox.

Developing a new approach to processing your Inbox will help you to gain more control, improve your response time, and keep up with critical actions and due dates.

Tip #1: Set up a simple and effective e-mail reference system

The first step toward an organized Inbox is understanding the difference between reference information and action information.

Reference information is information that is not required to complete an action; it is information that you want to keep in case you need it later.

Action information is information you must have to complete an action.

Most people receive a considerable amount of reference information through e-mail. Sometimes as much as one-third of your e-mail is reference information. So it is essential to have a system that makes it easy to transfer messages from your Inbox into your e-mail reference system. An E-mail Reference System is a series of e-mail file folders where you store reference information to ensure you have easy access to it later. Learn more about setting up an E-mail Reference System. Once you take care of filing your reference information, you can use the next three steps to handle e-mail you have to do something with, your action information.

Find three more tips for claiming victory over your email at the full article on Microsoft At Work, here.

By Sally McGhee, Consultant and Productivity Expert