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Trying to Organize Your Email? Keep it Simple

Trying to Organize Your Email? Keep it Simple

Monster Blogger Bryan

If you’re like most people I know, you have trouble managing your email.

Maybe you can’t keep up with the dozens or hundreds of messages (yes, some people get hundreds) you receive each day. Perhaps you’re fed up with all those silly forwards from your uncle or coworker, or frustrated by the series of 12 back-and-forth emails it takes to set up a meeting or get a basic question answered by your IT department (we don’t have that problem here at Monster, of course).

And what should you do with the email requests from your boss that you’re not quite ready, willing or able to act on? Should you keep them in your inbox so that you don’t forget them but then run the risk of cluttering said inbox with too many actionable messages? Or should you move them to a special “to-do” folder as part of your quest to achieve a state of Inbox Zero each day — and then forget about them because they’re not staring you down in your main inbox?

Then there’s also the tricky question of where to store that message from Jack in accounting once you’ve completed the associated actionable item. Should it go in the “Jack” folder? The “accounting” folder? The “January 2008 folder”? Maybe you’d like to delete the message forever, too, but what if the legal team needs it three years from now?

What a conundrum, huh?

Sorting, saving and retrieving email just requires far too much time and effort for most of us (myself included) to get right, and as a result, we’re woefully inefficient in using a tool that is meant to make our lives – and jobs – easier.

Too Many Folders? Stick to 3

But there just might be a refreshingly simple solution to the email management problem. I learned about it last night while listening to a podcast about organizing our digital lives. Lifehacker editor Gina Trapani put forth this suggestion: Use just three folders.

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1. Follow-up, for those messages that still require action from us

2. Hold, for emails that require action from someone else

3. Archive, for everything else

And that’s it! When you read a new message for the first time, you either respond and act on it right away or you move the message to one of these three folders. And if you need to find a message later, you can rely on the power of your email system’s search engine rather than your own memory.

What do you think? Would this system work for you, or do you have a better suggestion?

Read all of our Organization Articles.

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