Managing Email Folders

Later this week, I will be speaking to a large cancer practice about managing their email, along with other productivity tips. Like many companies, this group has been struggling with huge quantities of emails hitting their inboxes each day. Here are a few suggestions for folders you can create in your email program to help store and manage incoming email:

* ACTION: I use this folder to house those emails that I personally need to act upon. Then, after I've sorted through my inbox, I go back to ACTION and begin to prioritize the tasks I want to tackle first. A cool trick I use to make the ACTION folder pop up to the top of my folder list is to include the number 1 in front of the word ACTION.

* WAITING FOR: This folder is used for those emails where I have delegated a task to someone, am waiting for a response back, or am waiting to receive something in snail mail. For example, if I order an item off the internet, I put the confirmation email into WAITING FOR. Because I check WAITING FOR at least weekly, I use the same trick of adding a 1 in front of the folder name in order to make it pop to the top of my alphabetized email folder list.

* READ: I put those emails that are info-only and not time sensitive into a READ file. Then I spend a couple of minutes at the end of each day (during my low-energy times) perusing these emails. Or if I know I am going to be out running errands where I may get caught waiting, I print a few of my read-only emails to take with me. I love it when I can multi-task!

* PROJECT-SPECIFIC FOLDERS: For projects that are going to generate lots of emails that are save-worthy, create a project-specific folder. You may find that, as the project progresses, you need to break the project file into sub-folders to help you better manage the information. For example, as the Director of Communication and Technology for the GA chapter of NAPO, I oversee the chapter's web site, email list, and newsletter. To keep track of all of the info that I have to save for these different areas, I created a NAPO-Web, NAPO-Email List, and a NAPO-Newsletter folder. Then when I need to retrieve an email, all of my NAPO folders are close together alphabetically but separated into sub-categories by folder name.

* CLIENT-SPECIFIC FOLDERS: I create client-specific folders for on-going clients so that I can easily keep all of our save-worthy interactions in one place. I encourage you to use the same folder names for email files that you may also have in My Documents on your computer and/or your paper filing system.

* OTHER FOLDERS: Clients will often ask me, "How should I name my folders?" Whether it's an email folder, a paper folder, or a folder in My Documents on your computer, I always encourage you to pick the first name that pops into their head. More than likely, the name that first occurs to you is the same name that is going to occur to you the next time you need to find the information again.

And I would be falling down on the job as a professional organizer if I didn't STRONGLY encourage you to delete as many emails as possible, as often as possible. You've seen me use the phrase "save-worthy" in this post. Make sure that the emails you choose to keep are valuable enough to take up the mental energy and disk space it will take to store them.


bruce said...

Very useful info!