Yes, it's possible. In fact, it's simple: "Do not use your inbox as a task list."
The email inbox was not designed to be a task list. It gets way too cluttered. Keep your inbox much like you do your SMS messages. Read them, store them and move on. Don't ever return to old messages. It simply is not effective.
If you're asking why, my answer is very simple. Have you ever met someone that truly made it work? Sometimes I meet people who claim the inbox is their task list, and that it works. But then, if you dig deeper, you'll find these people are deeply frustrated and stressed with regular intervals. Don't believe it. Do not do it!
In order to make the change, all you need to do is decide one of three possible outcomes for each email you read:
- NO ACTION REQUIRED: Archive it.
- SIMPLE ACTION REQUIRED: If you can deal with it right away, or pass the ball back or to someone else, then hit reply or forward immediately. Keep messages as short as possible. Long emails tend to come back with more work.
- WORK REQUIRED: Does the email take extra effort? If yes, move it to your task list with a deadline. Keep that task list prioritized and up to date.
Believe me, I've witnessed people increase their effectiveness by leaps and bounds this way. How to do it? Decide to never read emails more than once - from now on!