I use Apple's Mail client on my Mac but this approach can work with Outlook as well.
Email has become a key part of our business communications. But it can also be overwhelming as the number of messages exceeds our capacity to deal with them.
One approach is to try something like Email Game. This tries to make the task of managing email into a game. If you deal with a message within a time limit you see a smiley face. But if you miss the time limit you see a sad face. It seems kind of childish but providing some sort of reward can help with making the job of getting through email a little less boring.
My approach is a little different. I use Apple's Mail client on my Mac but this approach can work with Outlook as well.
I use what Apple calls Smart Folders. The Outlook equivalent is Search Folders. Here are some instructions on creating Search Folders.
My working assumption is that any message that is more than a couple of days old is probably not something I need to take action on. So my focus is on unread messages from the last couple of days.
Also, there are messages from specific people that are more important than others. For example, if I'm working on a project with a client then I want to be able to find those messages quickly.
So, what I have is a series of Smart Folders that work to those rules.
It's not a particularly complex system but it helps me keep track of important messages based on what I think is important.
Some people like the more rigourous "Inbox Zero" approach whereas others use the GTD, or Getting Things Done, approach. What's important is finding a method that works for you.
How do you manage your email?