Organize Your Emails: Is your overflowing inbox giving you nightmares?
How much more productive would you be if you could get any piece of information you stored away within seconds? What if you could sort through the spam without having to read through each one to determine that it’s spam and save yourself hours of unproductive email rummaging?
Here’s a great read that inspired me to give you an in-depth look Organizing Lee 101.
If you receive under a dozen emails a day, this post is probably not for you since you can easily manually organize your emails. However, what you find as you open up a business or 2 or even just accumulate a few friends in this lifetime, is that you start to get an plethora of emails and you need to organize. Now, add the different coupon sites you sign up for, the different Mystery Shopper sites you’ve enlisted in, RSS feeds and Victoria’s Secrets sales newsletters, you are now drowning in the invisible sea of electronic mail.
So how do you organize your emails to prioritize and distinguish between friends and family whose emails you’d like to read, colleagues whose emails you must read, shopping emails you’d like to indulge in, and everything else that falls into the e-crap category? Especially those FWD: fwd: Fwd: fwd: blah blah blah and forward to 10 people or you will have great misfortunes, not get your $1,000,000 and then burn in hell emails?
Those who know me at all understand that not only am I not a neat freak, but there are generally piles of stuff everywhere in my offices. But I’ll be damned if I can’t find something I need within a few minutes. However, if we’re talking about electronic information, I can get it to you within seconds! And I get around 400-1,000+ emails daily.
HERE’S HOW TO ORGANIZE YOUR EMAILS (in Outlook)
1. I treat my email like a filing cabinet. Each folder can have sub-folders just like real files in a filing cabinet. So for example, I’ll create a folder & sub-folders under the Inbox that looks like this:
- Mother in Law
- Best Friend
- Marketing firm
- Account Manager
- Invoices Paid
- Upcoming Events
- Events Completed
Please note: I actually replace with the generic ‘Sister’ or ‘Best Friend’ with actual names. Also, if I get periodic emails from someone I don’t email often, I’ll put them under the generic category like ‘Friends’ or ‘Cousins’ to keep this from looking too ridiculously long.
2. I create the magical rules. Creating rules is easy and will save you hours in the course of your email-reading lifetime. It’s as simple as right-clicking, selecting ‘Create Rules’ and selecting at least one option from the top like, when I get an email from “Sister” then “Move the item to folder: ______” Make sure that you select the correct folder. It’s easy to overlook. You can get real fancy with the rules you create. For example, if you get spammed by a certain site that you have already asked to be deleted from, you can set up a rule to permanently delete as soon as you get it. You will never have to waste another second of your life trying to determine if that same doggone email was spam, then hitting the delete button. That will add about another 2 hours to your month8-)
3. If you’ve ever missed an important email, here’s an email organization tip that will stop that: I place a few key folders in my ‘Favorite Folders’ quick view in Outlook so that I don’t miss any important emails! Not only do I have the normal Inbox (for each of my emails) up here, but also the most important folder for me is my “Unread Mail” (for each folder as well). This makes sure that you don’t miss a collapsed folder like the “Account Manager” folder under your “marketing firm folder if you forgot to expand it. This has saved my ass a few times.
STARTING MY DAY
Now that my emails are organized, I always go down my list of expanded folders to pick which emails are most important first. I will always ready my “Hubby’s” emails first, then my sister’s, then any of my important colleagues. I skip certain folders that would most likely be solicitations or even just friends who usually send non-sense, and save those for later.
Then to be certain I caught every important email, I will go under my “Unread Mail” under my favorite folders quick view.
TAKING IT A STEP FURTHER
For years I didn’t have access to an exchange server. I know, I know…howwww did I survive? Well thanks to Apple’s revolutionary application for the common business people who can’t afford thousands of dollars for an exchange server, MobileMe, I am all synced up again – emails, contacts, data storage and all. However, before all of this great Apple technology, I had to find a way to always have access to my docs.
I would create folders for these documents like:
- Eval Forms
- Client questionnaires
- Policy and procedure manual
And each time I made an update to my documents or created a new document, I would email myself and then file under one of these folders. If it was a document I didn’t create, I would just scan it and then email to myself, then of course file under the right folder. Here’s another tip: to make sure you have access to the most current version, name your documents like this: “2009-02-10 Employee Handbook” without the quotes. If you follow this file naming practice, you’ll see that your documents will be easier to sort through.
Get the idea?
You can get so creative with this. It takes a little getting used to, but I find that I work better at things that are easy and that will enhance my life. This will save you countless hours each week. You could almost take a vacation with the hours you saved yourself from slaving away in the e-world – almost.
This has changed my e-life.
Let me know how you’ve tweaked it to make it work better for you.