Email is both a blessing and a curse. If you're looking for ways to reduce the drain email has on your productivity without throwing out the metaphorical baby, I've got three handy reply strategies you can use to quickly respond to (and often resolve) email threads.
1: I'm not the right person for this
I frequently get questions and requests for action from people who think I'm the right contact, when in reality I am only tangentially involved in the project at hand. In the old days, I'd try to be a hero and take on the task anyway. I'd end up spending a lot of time researching something and get an obligatory "thanks" at the cost of work I should have been doing instead. The better solution? Say, "Sorry, but I'm not the right guy. You might want to ping Janet or Brian instead," and add them to the CC line. Mission accomplished.
2: Do you still need this?
No one's perfect, and you neglected an email so long that it's three weeks old by the time you work your way down to it. Don't reflexively jump on the task. Send an email that says, "Sorry it took me so long! I was on vacation/in medical school/at rehab/doing a special project for the CEO. Do you still need this? I'm still happy to dive in." In my experience, 75 percent of the time, the issue resolved of its own accord. Mission accomplished.
3: Here's a link
As the dude who knows everything about a particular part of the publishing process, every writer I know emails me frequently with "clarifying questions" about how to do their job. In a sense, that's fine — we're all on the same team and I don't mind helping. But at a certain point, you realize that your own time is valuable too. If you're frequently pestered with questions about something you are the appointed expert on, write a short document and post it on a network share. Then, when you get the inevitable question, just reply with a link to the instructions. You'll save a ton of time in the long term. Mission accomplished.