For a few weeks I had been, what I’ll call “between computers”. I left a job at one company, and as a result had to give back the laptop I was using. My new company had purchased me a laptop, but due to some parts that were not in stock it was taking a bit of time for the laptop to make it’s way to me. I had an “interim” laptop, but I wasn’t going to set up my Microsoft Office when I was only going to use it for a short period of time (didn’t want to give up my license in case I wouldn’t be able to install Office on the new computer). So I made do with Windows Live Mail. Near the end I was hanging on by my nails trying to make it through the day without Outlook. So, let me explain something. I’m a busy girl. I have SEVERAL, and I mean SEVERAL email addresses. While Windows Live Mail likely works great if you are dealing with just one or two email accounts, but when you have as many as I do, you need something a little more robust.
Enter the wonderful day I got my laptop and was finally able to setup my Outlook again! I think I heard angels singing. It was a beautiful day. So, how do I manage and organize the hundreds of emails I receive every single day?
POP – There are two main ways to get emails from your accounts (if you aren’t with a company using an Exchange server), POP and IMAP. IMAP will keep your messages on the server that it resides on. So I typically use IMAP on my phone, and then POP the mail to my Outlook. When I setup the POP account it will take the messages off of my server (such as gmail) and will bring them down to my laptop. This way, I’m only accessing the mail when I’m on the road (not removing them from the server), and then when I’m really ready to deal with the message it gets downloaded to my laptop. This method isn’t going to work for everyone, but it’s what works for me. The only real problem is if I’m ever on the road and want to see an older message I won’t be able to access it, since it’s been downloaded to my computer already. On the road I’m only responding to urgent emails though, so this isn’t as big a deal for me.
Triage – This is something I’ve recently found in Outlook, and I am OBSESSED! It’s actually called Quick Steps, and you can customize these buttons to do anything you want! For example, I receive an email from someone that has included inside something I need to do. While I have the email highlighted, I click my “To Do” quick step and it will automatically flag the email, add the message to my to do list, and move the email to a special To Do folder I have. I have also set up quicksteps for scheduling an appointment, and moving emails to various folders. Another favorite Quick Step of mine is Reply and Delete. Once I reply to a message and I know when I reply I am done with the current email, if I click the reply and delete it will open a reply message for me to type and delete the original message. This makes going back through my email at the end of the day to clean it up SO much easier! Since I’ve already deleted messages I’m done with.
Folders – That leads me to my next organization tip, and that is use FOLDERS! If you right click on your “inbox” you can create new folders to go underneath your inbox. This is how you can categorize every message you receive. The goal is to keep the inbox empty so it’s just that, a place where things land before you file them away. I delete spam, move messages to a “to keep” folder if there is no actionable items, but there is information I want to keep. I move other messages to a “To Review” folder if it’s something I want to decide what to do with later. You could also create folders for various areas of your life. I usually do this under the main 3 folders (to do, to keep and to review). I create folders under “To Keep” for Church, Business, Personal, etc. I also have an “orders” folder for order numbers and confirmation codes under the To Keep folder. Figure out a folder system that works for you, and start sorting!
Having an empty inbox is a great feeling, and you can keep that feeling by dealing with messages as they come in. Triage the message into the appropriate folder, and when it comes time in your daily routine to really go through your messages, it will be down to the stuff you actually want to read!
Disclosure: Microsoft and the Office team did not pay me or compensate me in any way for this review. Truthfully, I don’t even think Microsoft knows I exist. This is just how I roll with my email workflow.