If you’re working to get your email under control chances are you’ve already dug into, and tweaked, your preferences. Filtering, labeling and filing can help you organize your existing email, but it does nothing to stop the daily flow into your inbox. To make that happen, you need to set boundaries, ground rules and procedures and stick to them!

Here are five strategies to help you get your inbox under control.

  1. Use Chat Instead: How many times do you get repeated emails asking a single question or a one-word reply? Email isn’t meant to be conversational. That’s what chat is for. Use Messenger or Skype for conversations without cluttering up your inbox.
  2. Think First, Then Respond: Implement the “three-email rule.” After three back and forth emails, pick up the phone. This method forces your colleagues to get to the point quickly. Eventually, they’ll get the message… if they want a quick response they’ll pick up the phone and call.
  3. Schedule Time for Email: You schedule meetings, lunch, and phone calls. Start to schedule your email and give yourself a time limit. Let colleagues know that you are only available via email at certain times of the day. Once you’ve set a schedule, use an auto-responder to reply to any emails during off times in your schedule.
  4. Reply Only at the End of the Day: Read email in the morning, prioritize it, and respond at the end of the day. Any urgent requests can be handled in person or on the phone. This cuts down on email tag and people will begin to wait to respond until the next day when they know you’ll see it. This method also gives you time to think and compose a response before you hit send.
  5. Communicate Using Other Means: People are more likely to use other forms of communication if they know you’re more likely to respond. Add your Facebook or LinkedIn contact to your email signature. Give contacts your phone number for a faster reply and let colleagues know which method you prefer.

Sometimes your inbox can get overwhelming and slow down your day. Set boundaries for contact to remain productive and still stay reachable when needed. Whatever rules you set, make sure to let your colleagues know and stick to them.