I receive up to 200 mails a day. I’ll admit, if I didn’t have the following guidelines in place, I would most certainly miss important deadlines, neglect certain tasks or overlook customer queries.
Before you start creating folders, give some thought to the volume of mail you receive, as well as the type of mail.
There are two options:
- Create folders by Sender
- Create folders by Project/Action, etc.
I use a mixture of the two options mentioned above. Some of my folders are solely for mail from a specific sender or branch. For example, I set up folders for my boss, Ms T*, as well as specific folders for Mr X, Mrs Y and Mr Z (people I deal with a lot), Branch1, Branch2, etc.
I also have folders per action. If I may give an example: I work for a security company. Every morning, updates are sent out with regards to occurrences reported during the night. This task is rotated among the company secretaries on a weekly basis. There’s no need for me to create a folder for each of these secretaries. Instead, I’ve created one folder titled Occurrences and set the rule to Subject instead of Sender. All mails with the word Occurrences in the subject will automatically be moved to this folder, regardless of who the sender is.
A word of caution: Have a clear idea of what system you are going to use most often and create folders accordingly. It would be of no use if you created a folder for Project ABC and a Boss folder, only to find that 80% of your boss’ correspondence relates to Project ABC.
Simplified Folder Solution
If you have no interest in a complicated folder system, or you don’t receive huge amounts of mail per day, there are simpler solutions.
Create 3 folders:
- Follow up/Action: For the messages that still require action.
- Hold: For mails that require action from a third party.
- Archive: For everything else.
Create 2 folders:
- Follow up/Action: Anything that requires action. Deadlines, meetings, queries, etc.
- Reference: Everything else. About 50% of all correspondence you receive can be classified as reference material – the monthly report that Finance sends out every month, the pesky newsletter/internal company memo and the documents/procedures that the GM’s PA downloads from the intranet and sends around when she’s bored.
Use broader descriptions:
Instead of allocating separate folders for Invoices, Travel expenses, Statements, etc., group everything under Finance or Accounting. Instead of creating a folder for each of your 26 suppliers, group everybody under Suppliers or Clients.
Don’t neglect the rules
You’ve set up folders, but still waste time dragging everything from your inbox to said folders? Set up a rule to automatically move all Mr X’s emails to his folder.
Set “Follow Up” reminders
Before clicking send, ask yourself if you need a reply/action from the recipient. Is there a deadline involved?
This is where the follow up tab comes in handy. You can flag the mail with a specific date and time. When the reminder pops up, you can either dismiss it if you already received feedback, or resend the email to remind the recipient that you are still awaiting feedback.
By implementing these tips, your inbox will never be crowded again. Always see what you need to respond to, before the deadline looms.