And now for a topic near and dear to everyone’s heart — e-mail organization. To establish an e-mail filing system that allows you to access past e-mails quickly and easily, use the following methods to archive and prioritize messages:
#1. File by client name. If your work is account based, with lots of different clients, it makes sense to set up a folder for each customer; for example: Client A, B, C and D. However, if you have several hundred clients to keep tabs on, create general folders that divide the clients into broader categories; for example: Engineering clients, retail clients, banking clients, healthcare clients etc.
#2. File by product or service. If your work has more to do with products and services than clients, make general folders for all the main product and service categories that you deal with. For example, the products folders might be labeled: Flab fighter, joyful gerbil, kitty crave, turtle polish and catnip sauce. Examples of service folders might be: Consulting, speaking, training, writing etc. Within these folders, place all related topics en masse, or with subfolders for each product or service category.
#3. File by project. Some people prefer a project-based filing system, in which folders are created for each of the major projects you are working on. For example: New web site, quarterly sales, annual picnic, family reunion etc.
Within each folder, subfolders can be created to store messages that relate to one area of the project; for example, under the project “new web site,” you might have the following subfolders: Design, ideas, notes, input, management and webmaster.
#4. Take advantage of automated filing. Microsoft Outlook, Entourage and Apple Mail have features for automatically assigning e-mails — from specific senders or about certain subjects — to pre-assigned folders. E-mails then show up in your main inbox list, but are also filed under their specified topic.
#5. Finally, when new e-mails come in, don’t let them linger in your mailbox, hoping they will read themselves. For every incoming message you have, take at least one of the following four actions:
•Reply immediately whenever possible
•Delete the message
•Forward when appropriate
•File the message in the appropriate folder
Warning! Don’t fall into the trap of using “ignore” as an option for dealing with incoming messages. Anything you are trying to ignore becomes a loose end and a big energy drain.
Please note that the information in this article is copyrighted by Karen Leland. If you would like to reprint any of it on your blog or website you are welcome to do so, provided you give credit and a live link back to this posting.
Karen Leland is the bestselling author of six books including Time Management In An Instant: 60 Ways to Make the Most of Your Day. She is the co-founder of Sterling Consulting Group, which helps organizations and individuals learn how to fight distraction and find their focus in a wired world. For more information please contact: [email protected]