Email is being overtaken by other forms of Internet communication, but there were still over 90 trillion emails sent last year—that's 247 billion a day on average. And sometimes, I think they all go into my email box.
Part of the problem is the number of email boxes people have these days: there's your work e-mail address, your personal e-mail address, the one you get when you get your smartphone, and the ones that some people set up just to use when they register on websites to avoid spam. A desktop email client can help you get to all those different mail accounts in one place, but managing all the messages you get can be a real challenge.
If you use an email client on your computer like Windows Live Mail or Mozilla Thunderbird to download all of your messages, just the mass of email can create other problems—it can fill up your hard drive, and the size of your e-mail "mailbox" file can grow so large that it slows down your email or can become corrupted.
That's a problem I recently ran into, despite my best efforts to keep my mailboxes pruned back. Maybe it's because I get over 1,000 emails a day, between work and personal messages, alerts from social networks and websites I belong to, mailing lists and other e-mail spewing firehoses. Fortunately, I've got backups and archives to ensure that I didn't lose any messages—though I certainly could stand to lose a few.
There are some fairly easy ways to avoid the sort of e-mail crush that I've endured, no matter how much mail you get:
1) Read it and delete it. If there's no reason to keep a message—if it's not a receipt, or some other important business or personal information—delete it as soon as you've read it.
2) Purge your "junk" folder daily. By some calculations, 81% of email messages are "spam"—unsolicited emails with advertising, or attempts to lure you into some sort of online fraud or malicious website. A good spam filter on your email client will catch most of these, with some basic training, but will sometimes catch emails you want to read as well. Check your "junk" folder daily for messages that might have been "false positives" for spam, and purge the rest.
3) Leave your mail on the server if you can. Web email accounts like Google and Yahoo (and Hotmail for Windows Live Mail users) can be connected directly to many desktop mail clients with automatic setups that let you leave the mail on the server rather than downloading it to your PC. In GMail's case, you can keep up to around 7 gigabytes of email online for free. That can mean a lot less clutter on your hard drive, and viruses and malware never reaching your computer.
4) Use a separate account for registering on websites. It's easy to set up a web e-mail address with Google, Yahoo! or Microsoft for free. Set up an account to use specifically for registering on websites where your email might be used to send commercial offers or other spam. This will cut down on the amount of time you need to spend cleaning out your regular e-mail box.
5) Archive regularly. After a while, even the important email you've saved can get to be a fairly large amount. Use your email client's archiving function to save old messages you need to keep every six months or so to an archive email box that you can burn to a CD or put on a backup drive. Then take the messages off your computer.
For other tips on email: