Note: This is not a post on how to stop the spam emails you've been getting about contraception or p****s enhancements. That is the subject of many other articles and blog posts.
Don't you just hate it when you are going through your inbox, clearing up your unread emails, only to find that this very process that is meant to clear your inbox is leading to even more emails coming in. Your replies to old emails are generating new emails with more queries or requests. So, in an attempt to help you solve this most irritating of problems, here are some tips to keep in mind each time you attempt to spring clean your inbox.
Be clear, direct and specific
Vagueness only generates more questions and therefore more emails to you.
Anticipate and address questions or areas of uncertainty
Addressing them the first time avoids you having to address them in a follow up email.
Give emails time to marinate
Replying to an email as soon as it arrives is like blurting out an answer without thought or reflection. A well thought out answer is more likely to address the query fully and decisively. A rushed answer, especially one sent in anger, is to be avoided for another important reason - it can start an angry exchange that quickly spirals into a chain of back-and-forth emails with no amicable end in sight. Taking time before replying helps calm tempers and emotions.
Give emails time to rot/expire
Some emails, if left long enough (say a couple of months or years) take care of themselves or are conveniently taken care of by someone else and therefore don't need your input anymore. If your attention is urgently required, the sender will send 'chaser' emails, call or physically track you down. If not, then your input can't be that urgent or important.
Don't ask questions. Give answers.
If you ask questions in your email, expect another email with answers. Better to give directions or suggestions (clear, direct, specific) and let the recipient come back to you if they disagree. If you have to ask questions, ask all of them at the same time rather than making it another back-and-forth exchange. Needless to say, any questions you send should also be clear, direct and specific to avoid questions about your questions or worse, wrong answers due to misunderstood questions.
Don't (just) give answers. Ask (the important) questions.
Email chains tend to forget the main reason they were started in the first email and veer into irrelevant territory. Avoid feeding this mindless wandering by attempting to address the fundamental reason for the email or email chain. This ties in with anticipating follow up questions. If the original/ultimate aim is to solve a problem, address this problem directly rather than address queries that have no bearing to it.
KISS - Keep it short, stupid
Shorter emails are easier for your recipients to understand and address than longer ones. You don't need to be a genius to see this.
Nothing kills an email chain better than a good call or face-to-face. This should therefore be your first resort rather your the last. Hence the reason it is last and not first in this list.