Email, like many other tools, can be a great facilitator of business and efficiency. With a few keystrokes, you can communicate and share important information, document conversations and decisions and keep work moving.

But, email can also end up becoming a time sink that actually hampers your productivity. Messages streaming in at every moment, mailboxes that fill up and long emails from verbose colleagues are just some of the challenges you’re likely to face at work every day.

How do you balance the urge to stay on top of your email with the need to get work done?

Start by thinking about your email folder organization. Emails really are the today’s version of yesterday’s hardcopy memos and documentations so your email folders correspond that old file cabinet. Create a logical system that you can easily remember and then stay with it. “Filing” your emails daily or at least weekly will prevent that big stack from piling up, turning what could be a small job into a monumental one.

Similarly, avoid the urge to keep every last email. When you have a message with multiple back-and-forths, save only the last one that shows the whole conversation history and delete the others. This keeps your email folders slim and trim and avoids “email jail”. Another way to do this is by saving large attachments separately on your hard drive or server and deleting them from the email messages.

Designing a good folder system and shedding electronic packrat tendencies are just two steps toward getting control of your communications and your work. Finding emails when you need them can be done in a snap, allowing you to take care of business as it happens. Check out our infographic for more great ideas.

Strong email management skills put you in charge of your work, not the other way around. And, they can actually give you time back in your day—now that’s what we call working smart.

Take back your email life

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