There are certainly days that I wish we could all go back to when email didn’t exist! However, email is here to stay – so let’s get it under control!
After sketching out my ideas and thoughts on paper – I was able to come up with my email wish list. Exactly what I would really love my email manager to do!
Now this is still the planning/wish list phase. The next step will be to try and find solutions to make my wish list a reality. Most likely some of the things I wish for don’t exist but at least now I know what I’m looking for and therefore may even find a partial solution.
My Email Wish List…
Folders – Less is Best
I’ve decided on naming my folders by category and a few of these folders will have specific sub-folders. I tried to not go crazy on the number of folders and sub-folders and really thought about which categories are the most important to me. In total I have about 10 folders. This will probably flux a bit once I start organizing and sorting my email. I’m in this minimalist phase where I’m trying to just have things that I use frequently – this includes email and folders.
No More Priority or General In Box
This is a bold move but I am going to set up my email so that new email will automatically move to a predetermined specified folder. Based on the Sender’s Name this will determine which folder the email will move to. This way if I get new email in both the Travel Folder and the Career Folder then I know that the email in Career Folder would be more important so I would attend to those emails first and possibly days later I would attend to the new emails in the Travel folder. The good thing about this system is that it takes out that extra step of me having to move my email to each folder every time mail comes in. It arrives already in the ‘right’ place.
In Gmail, one email could be given multiple labels – at first I thought this is cool and I’m quite sure Thunderbird would allow for one piece of email to have multiple tags or live in several folders. But over time the problem was I couldn’t ever really find my email. Sometimes I would label it by category for example Fitness. Then a few days later I may label a similar type of email by sender The Pilates Den. Then the day after I would label another email Pilates. This is how I ended up with such a mess of folders. I didn’t plan out how my email should be labelled I just did it quickly on a whim each day in hopes of just moving them out of my priority/inbox as quickly as possible. Yes I can of course do a general search but then I would have 50+ pilates/fitness/pilates den emails and of course I couldn’t remember exactly the content and so I’m clicking through all these emails, scrolling through the threads to try and find that one sentence about the details of Pilates Day event. Generally I would be lucky if I found the information – in most cases I would have given up as soon as I saw my search result turn up too many emails.
Which brings us to my next wish list item.
Searches that Return the ‘Right’ Information
Now I’m hoping by dumping all email into a Parent Category Folder – let’s continue with the Fitness Folder example and then have 3-4 sub folders labelled by specific Sender – 1) Pilates Den, 2) Divine Fitness 3) Surrey Pilates I will be able to do searches on just the Pilates Den folder and hopefully find my information.
I think that if I keep to the system of only having parent folders titled as a category and sub-folders by specific sender name it will eliminate the confusion of having multiple labels, tags and folders associated to one piece of email. I may be wrong about this but I think we are just given too many ways to categorize our stuff and it just ends up making things overly complicated and in the end a frustrating experience.
I hear that minimalist voice coming out again 🙂
How Long Should My Email Live For
This is an interesting question that I never really thought about until recently. My work place initiated a software that has special folders and attached to these folders are retention schedules. Therefore any files placed in this folder (emails, docs, spreadsheets, pics etc) based on the date they are placed in the folder have a ‘life’ span. For example, a folder with a revenue classification would live for 10 years after that the file will be deleted. I know that emails don’t take up tonnes of space but if you look at all the different types of files you keep – how much of it do you really every look at or use again? I would say you only really use 25% of your stuff. And its probably all within the last year. Beyond that you rarely if ever look at it again.
Another example that is more tangible – go to your kitchen and open your cupboards – start with the bottom ones – in that cupboard when was the last time you used each item? Last week, last month, last year, can’t remember? Only count up the items you used in the last 6 months or less. How many items do you use frequently? Probably 25% is the average you will get. Again I’m all in favour of the less is more principle – I know some things need to be kept even if they aren’t being used but even these things after a certain amount of time when do they become so dated and irrelevant that you would not need to look at it again?
At this time I won’t be implementing a life span for my email but its some food for thought for the future.
That’s all I want for email organizing at this time. Doesn’t sound to grim now that I have sketched it out. But… we aren’t done yet.
Create To Do Lists
Rather than reading an email then flagging it with colors or even re-marking it as unread I want to find a way to consistently use a To Do List system. It would be nice if I could create a To Do List item and some where in the description area have it link to the exact email I need to respond to. This way I could attend to my action item and rather than having to try and sort through my email of flags or unread. I would just click a link/button and the email would appear. I would respond – send it – then check off that item on my To Do List. AH! That feels so good to check that item off!!
Calendar Link to To Do List Link to Email
I’m a calendar fanatic. I just have so many activities going on that if I don’t put it in my calendar then forget it, I probably won’t remember to do it. Today, just about all my appointments/meetings are scheduled by emails.
It would be so lovely to some how have the information from my email and to do list be integrated with my calendar. Then I could open up my daily calendar – see I have a meeting, open the item, quickly see the location and if needed I could click on the items (To Do List) and possibly the email(s) that were associated with that meeting. This way I would be able to refresh myself to what needs to be done/discussed etc.
The last two items are probably fictitious in nature but if I can even find a few solutions to address my To Do and Calendar fixation I would be much happier than I am now.
Now on to the guide to put my plan into action!!