An email organizing tip that actually WORKS.

I do not consider myself among the many who have large numbers of important, impressive, incoming e-mails each day. And yet I still sometimes feel the flow of the e-mail waters rise a bit too far above my head for just a few moments. Admittedly, sometimes things get buried back behind the new emails coming in, lost to the inbox abyss.

My mom would tell you to always keep your inbox empty. Read it. Delete it.

I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t always work that way. Canna getta witness?

Recently I’ve seen an increase in important incoming emails and an increase in responsibility answering those emails. The number of mis-placed, forgotten, and buried emails cried out for a solution. I FOUND ONE.

My solution is my ACTION folder.

(Somebody in the back row just hollered “Duh!!” Please bear with me and the others who have yet to learn about the greatness that is the action folder!)

This solution is something you can implement immediately, right now, regardless of where your inbox stands. I promise. Whichever email system you use, go into your system right now and create a folder called “ACTION NEEDED” or if you prefer, just simply “ACTION.”
From now on, every email that comes in that requires any kind of action (ANY KIND!) whatsoever that you can’t or don’t have time to do right that very second — move it to the action folder. Immediately. Do not dally!

  • If you need to reply to that email – send it to the action folder.
  • If you need to add that phone number/email address/info to your contacts/phone/mailing list – send it to the action folder!
  • If you need to look at that again tomorrow so that you will remember to email or call someone else – send it to the action folder!
  • If you need to print it, store it, forward it, edit it, download it, copy it, cut it, paste it – send it to the action folder!

I promise this will make your email life so much easier. BUT.. this is a multi-part tip.

Once you send it there, you can’t forget it.

Set aside a time (preferably routine times, in the morning and at night, on your lunch break, whatever) to go through the action folder and DO the actions. It’s a habit you need to develop but it’s an easy one to develop and get the hang of.

When I check my email for the first time of the day, I send action emails to the folder and once I’m done I open the folder for a quick review of the items inside, in case I need to be reminded of anything particularly urgent. Later in the day while the kids are working on school work that needs less of my assistance I go through my folder and clear my action items. Sometimes I get a chance to go back through before bed, but if I don’t it’s okay because I will do it again mid-day the next day.

Because all of my action items are in one place, nothing gets lost, nothing gets overlooked, and I actually save myself time. Depending on what the actions are I may be able to get through them in a few minutes to half an hour’s time. And I get the added benefit of looking a whole lot more responsible, too!

There’s also a third step to this system I’m using: Categorized folders.

I already had a handful of folders I was (kinda) using but without a system, I wasn’t using them well. Before I had an action folder, I might file both an action and a keep email into a folder, but I wasn’t able to stay on top of that. Now as I go through my inbox if there’s an email I need to keep that doesn’t require action (I get some of those for my produce co-op for example) I can file it straight into that folder.

After going through the action folder if I still need to keep it, I can file it, if not, I can delete it. It’s a better way of ensuring I don’t keep emails I don’t need and making sure I can find emails I do need later. Periodically you need to browse through any folders to see if you have things that can be purged, of course.

This is the kind of tip that anybody can use, regardless of how many “important” emails you get coming through your inbox in a day. Even if you share an email account with someone. Or maybe, ESPECIALLY if you share an account with someone. ; ) And since “Action” starts with A, you have a good chance that it will be the top folder in the list making it easy to see, remember and stay on top of. I can’t take credit for that, but it helps. I suppose if you had a LOT of action emails coming through you could break it down into multiple action folders (“Action biz, Action personal” or “Action blog, Action store, Action homeschool co-op” for example.) I bet that would work.

If you have an e-mail organization tip, please share it in the comments. I’m open to improving my system even more if I can. But for now, this is REALLY working for me!

Now. If only I could organize my digital photos so quickly and easily… 😉

And if you have a Works for Me Wednesday tip of any sort, head over to Kristen’s!

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/idogcow/ / CC BY 2.0

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Jen
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Jen

Now this is a great tip! I keep reading all these tips about using Gmail, but I’m just not a fan of Gmail. But, this I can do! And my email inbox has become overwhelming, so this is a great way to start working on it! Thank you!

Jeni
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Jeni

I’m in the minority, I know, but I DO keep my inbox & spam folders empty. It drives me NUTS when they start to get cluttered.

If you think of a good way to organize the digital photos, let me know! Ours are organized by date, which leads to a big guessing game when I’m trying to look for a particular photo.

Amber
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Amber

Jen – I do use gmail for blogging/working online. I like it okay, it has it’s advantages and disadvantages. One thing I don’t like is that when I move something to a “folder” (give it a label) it stays in the inbox, it just gets labeled. I can archive things and they disappear out of the inbox but where do they go? I don’t fully understand it. Perhaps I just need to read up on Gmail more. 😉 On the other hand it has awesome spam filters. Just sayin. I use Yahoo mail for my personal mail address (even lacking… Read more »

Amber
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Amber

Jeni – I don’t know HOW you do that!