How do you organize your work e-mail?

I use Outlook at work, and my e-mail situation is getting pretty awful with my current system.

I flag incoming messages with different colored flags depending on the type of response that the e-mail requires. So if I have to actively do something, I’ll flag it red. If I’m waiting for a follow-up from someone else, I flag it orange. If it’s informational, I flag it blue; and so on. I then go into the Follow-Up folder to see all my flagged messages in one place and use it as my to-do list.

This is all well and good, but the trouble begins when I finish a task and unflag it.

You see, I never delete anything and leave all my e-mails in my Inbox so I can find them later using Outlook’s search feature. This is painfully slow and inefficient as I have thousands of e-mails now in my Inbox, and searching is the only way I can find these messages after I unflag them.

My manager suggests I move my resolved e-mails to folders after I’m done with them so I can find them quickly later, and to keep my inbox bare; leaving only the new unread e-mails there. That makes sense, but I’d like to see how the rest of you do it before I attempt to reorganize. Any advice is very much appreciated.

When I’m done with an email, I move it to a folder rather than deleting it - about the only emails that I ever actually delete are spam that sneak past our filters.

The way I have it set up is that I can delete messages and they go to the Deleted Items folder as usual. Every so often, I scoop them all up and move them to a .pst file before the auto-archive process has a chance to trash them completely. I do the same with sent messages as well so my server-level mailbox stays at a reasonable size. Right now, I’m using files called 2009 sent.pst and 2009 deleted.pst, just to give you an idea of how basic the organization of them is.

As for finding things, that’s what Google Desktop is for - it’s indexed something like 185,000 emails for me.

You can also set up a .pst file or two for your working projects so your main mailbox stays at a reasonable size.

Folders are the way to go. All of my incoming emails go into one of several folders. I have folders for the boss, folders for each client, folders for friends and family, folders for important things that I need to keep, folders for projects, etc. As long as I let Outlook run the Auto Archive every once in a while it keeps my inbox from being unmanagable. My deleted items auto delete after every shut down, but if someone can tell me how to migrate Outlook emails into a desktop folder that would be sweet.

I use a similar method of flagging for following up on emails - red for action needed and I haven’t done anything yet, orange for action required but partially underway, green for still live but waiting on someone or something else, blue for information only. When something is dealt with I move the email into my archive folders, I have one for every month so it’s relatively easy to find things just be sorting by name/subject/date/attachment etc. My inbox rarely has more than 30 items in it.

I find with too many folders I forget where each thing is, especially when subjects of the emails can overlap.

For email I used three folders. Pending for things that I need to do but haven’t done yet. Follow-up for things that I need to do something with but I’m waiting for someone else to provide info on. The third is just archive. I put everything in one folder to search that way.

From the sound of it, this may not work for you since it sounds like you have a ton of emails. I’d just be careful about having too many folders so you don’t spend forever searching each one trying to remember where you put it.

I go with folders.

Most of the folders are project-based, because my work is project-based.

Each folder has the name of a project, so I have folders such as “Safety,” “Study Abroad,” and “Community Service.” For projects that are ongoing over multiple years, I break it down further into sub-folders, so “Community Service 07,” “Community Service 08,” etc.

If I need to take action on an email, it stays in the in-box. After I have taken the initial action, I move it into the project folder. Even if I am going to do more work related to the email, as long as I get the ball rolling it goes into the project folders.

I have a few other folders that aren’t so project based, such as a Personal folder and one where I keep all the generic form emails that I get from HR about things like benefits.

I am also a good deleter, so when I get those emails where a coworker replies to all, and the email says … “thanks” that goes right in the trash so it doesn’t clutter up my in-box or a folder. I do not need to keep a record of my coworkers’ inability not to reply to all!

Another vote for Google Desktop.

I don’t bother organizing my emails, and I keep them all, and often need to find one.

It’s a lot easier to search on “Kris Bug Report Fatal Error” and have google find it for me instantly than it is to try to organize emails and dig through separate folders trying to find the one I want.

Oh, I wanted to mention one more thing! The email program I use has a good search function, so multiple folders aren’t any more difficult to search than one huge in-box. One benefit of the folders is that I can easily give a coworker a copy of an entire folder if they need it, say a new employee joining a particular project team.

I use folders. I prefer to deal with e-mails immediately, so I will either respond or decide I’m just a spectator in this little conversation and delete it, or submit my input and then delete it.

We have a limit on the amount of space we have in our work e-mails, so keeping stuff for future reference means I move it to a folder. Every once in awhile I’ll go through the folders and delete the obsolete or no-longer-relevant e-mails. If I ever have something that’s a CYA situation, I will print out the e-mail.

I work for a drug company, and most of my important emails concern studies I’m working on. I just have a folder for each study. Our server automatically deletes items in the trash folder after a few hours, so I created another folder called “fake trash” so that I can “delete” something, but still be able to retrieve it if I end up needing it weeks later.

Personally I just use folders based on subject.

Our administrative assistant swears by xobni.

I delete all my e-mail after 2-3 months, with the exception of maybe 2% that I keep longer in folders.

Of course, all our mail is archived now, so I can find anything if I want, but I’ve been doing this for years. I can’t think of a case where I needed to retrieve an e-mail older than 2-3 months anyway.

People tend to keep all e-mail, but really, how often do you ever need an old one?

I set up folders for each contract and project I was managing as well as a general staff folder. I couldn’t delete vendor emails until the contracts were completed and signed off on so I had a lot of folders. I used my inbox as a to-do list. If it’s there it means that I haven’t done it or responded yet. If I kept everything there I would have thousands to dig through to find anything. When it came to other emails I dealt with them and deleted or filed them ASAP. I was never big on saving stuff that I wasn’t going to need. My machine rarely had anything on it but software because I stored everything on servers. Most people were limited as to how much space they could have but if you had a reason like I did you could have all of the server space that you wanted to save them on.

Another folder fan here. I use gmail for work and I wish I’d never set it up as now all my contacts are there, after laborious data entry, I hate it.

What what what whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat? :eek: Please explain how anyone could hate gmail? It’s the most awesome-est web based mail program ever!

I hate that it continues the same “conversation” in a long ass thread… I send out blasts for a networking group I run. Every time, there are email addresses that are defunct. I have to scroll through 50 undeliverable messages to get to one RSVP and then do it again when someone else replies.

I hate the labels as opposed to folders. Mostly I hate the long thread. I probably don’t use it right.

I’ve always used folders and after trying various different systems, I now simply move them into monthly folders, i.e.

2008 12
2009 01
2009 02, etc.

If I need to find an email and don’t know how long ago it was, I just use the Find function rather than manually browsing through.

Emails I have dealt with get moved immediately, I try to have only emails with action items and unread emails in my Inbox.

We use Outlook at work (I am in-house legal counsel at a bank) and have a 60MB limit on our Mailbox capacity, so I have to use Archive folders, set up through Outlook Data Files, to manage my mail.

I set up a new Archive folder each year, and create a bunch of sub-folders - usually Incoming, Outgoing and individual Project folders for larger transactions/projects (I switched off Auto-Archive because it doesn’t work for me).

I have also created a separate Follow-Up folder in my Mailbox, where I keep flagged emails for follow-up, so my Inbox only ever has a couple of emails in it.

I use the “categorize” feature in Outlook 2007. Each category gets a name and a unique color. You can search your mailbox by category, so it’s like using folders but the messages can stay in your Inbox. It’s particularly nice because you can put a message in more than one category, so it’ll show up under “All X Team Projects” as well as “Project Y”. When a project is off the table, those messages go in a folder for future reference and I can reuse the category for a current project.

You can also create rules for incoming messages-- all messages from your boss are flagged for follow-up, all messages that say “X Team” are colored green, etc.

Can you set up a rule (or whatever Gmail calls it) to automatically delete these NDRs?