In my opinion Gmail is the superior email client and if you haven't already set one up then you should get onto it and migrate your contacts from your old account and start fresh.
Once you have gmail or an apps account set up then the most important thing is to create and organise your folders into distinct areas - everyone is different and will work out what is best for them-I have "home" for bills, electricity, phone etc -"school" anything that I might need for future reference from work - "personal" emails from friends that I need to reply to or keep - "admin" account confirmations and details - and a couple of others depending on personal interests. The folders are where you can
keep the mail for reference once you have dealt with it, you can also add subgroups if you need to be more specific.
So now you have a sparkly new empty inbox and a few folders set up. When your first email comes in use the 3 second rule, work out wether to delete, respond or set a task/file away. If it is irrelevant then trash it (messages stay in the 'bin' for 30 days after you delete them so you can always get them back). If it is a general request for information or your attention then I try and respond as soon as I can, then file or delete it - the ball is then in the other persons court and they can respond if they need to. If the email is something that doesn't need immediate action, but is still important you will need to use a task manager or to-do list.
I use 'Things' which is a programme for Mac that syncs to iPhone and any other ios devices you use - it is quite simple and easy to organise area's and projects. There are plenty of other apps and programmes that you can use, gmail even has its own 'tasks' which integrates well with apps and the calendar but I was put off this a couple of years ago as it didn't sync as well - it is probably better now so I'll try it again soon?
Schedule the email as a task to complete on the day before it needs attention or however long you think it will take to complete, then file the email away or delete it! No more cluttered inbox and missed replies. If you are worried about not being able to find an email because you have deleted or filed it away you can use the powerful search in gmail - use search operators like 'from:' or 'sent:' to narrow your search. Deal with emails as they come in or set some time aside each day or week (depending on how many emails you get) to keep on top of organisation.
- Archive all existing mail to start with a clean inbox
- Inbox should not be used as a 'to-do' list, as it will soon be bogged down and unusable if you don't, use a task manager
- Use #1 and #2 etc. to order your folders numerically rather than alphabetically (it will be quicker to file mail without having to scroll down through folders)
- Have a picture of your family or a hobby as your background picture so you can reward yourself by looking at it when you have deleted/filed all you old emails!
- Take 2 minutes to unsubscribe from all the automated emails you receive from a shop you bought something from once - it will save you time in the long run as they won't be planning on stopping the emails anytime soon!