An E-Mail Inbox is A Mirror of Her Owner
A person can be quite accurately judged by the contents of her email inbox. The two extremes are (1) the people who organize all their incoming e-mails manually into a sophisticated set of folders and (2) the people who keep all their e-mails in the one inbox.
The first type of people spends an enormous amount of time manually filing the messages (unless they use Spearian for Outlook designed to streamline automatic filing and processing of e-mail messages) but then find any email rapidly, while the second type of people do not waste any time on filing of the e-mails but do spend an enormous amount of time searching emails.
Searching is NOT Efficient
The key problems with search are that
- virtually no e-mail search can handle synonyms, typos, and implied connotations
- no e-mail search can handle automatic translations
- the searched for information may be in an attachment, e.g. a PDF file, with no searchable text
- the search returns usually a large number of false positives
- none of the third-party e-mail search solutions works perfectly.
Thus, even if the search solution functions well, the search works best for specific keywords, such as order numbers.
The Importance of a Strict Personal Filing System
I personally cannot imagine a truly successful person who has no strict personal system of organizing emails and other information.
In my view, the best practices for organizing e-mails are these:
- Use Microsoft Exchange Server and Set up its Server-Based Message Rules for filing the emails from frequent senders and/or on frequent topics automatically into the right folder. I personally use two root folders with rich sub-folders structures: Archive (for keeping my records and/or to obey regulatory requirements) and Process (for newsgroups, and newsletters, both of which are mostly deleted after reading). Then, in the Outlook set up a Search Folder to monitor the root folder, in my case Archive, for any unread email and once a new email arrives, it’s shown in the Search Folder automatically.
- Separate in your Archive synchronous e-mails (back-and-forth emailing, such as Support) and asynchronous e-mails (invoices, meeting notes etc). For every firm I cooperate with I keep a set of the sub-folders Invoices, Sales, Support.
- Consider Using Special Project Management Portals, such as JIRA. Project-management emails represent a significant portion of all email traffic and running projects by email is not efficient – project management portals provide superior capabilities to e-mail for localizing of the issues and their entire case histories.
- Consider Using OneNote for Knowledge Bases – take out of the e-mail anything you are likely need to refer back later and put it to OneNote. The principal objectives are to put to one place all up-to-date relevant information and to process every single email just once and archive it.
- Tag Incoming Emails with Outlook Categories, such as Meeting Summary, Contract, Order etc to help you discriminate between emails later when you really have to search the e-mail archive.
Then, when you do search your e-mail archive and you cannot use JIRA or OneNote, you do search only through the particular sub-folder in your sophisticated message folder hierarchy and only on the e-mails with the particular Outlook Category.
Article: Am I Wasting My Time Organizing Email?
Despite having said that the value of e-mail search is limited, the below article still brings invaluable insights:20150712-Am-I-wasting-my-time-organizing-email