Thursday, May 10, 2012

Conquering email

I started to type this up as a series of Facebook posts, but I realized that I have quite a bit to say on this topic, so I believe it merits a blog entry.

I recently figured out on my own how to separate out my to do list from my email inbox. I was a little worried that it's a bit too time consuming, but now that I have verification that it's a good system, I will fret no longer.

The article does not expressly state this (probably because it's not written exclusively for users of Outlook), but it's very easy to drag and drop an email into the Tasks pane, turning it into a task. I then edit the task as necessary. 

And if there is a series of actions involved or some follow-up calls to be made before it's completed, I simply edit the task and add that info in at the top. I then drag the original email to a folder called Tasks To Do so that when I need to follow up with the requester, I know where to find the email.  

Then what do you do with the emails, you might ask. Do you just delete them? The task is done, so why not, right? No! Accountability, people! I have a terrible, awful, no good memory, which is why I started journaling, and is also why I save a record of every task I complete. If I'm asked a couple weeks later if I did something, I very well may not remember, even if I did do it.

Another Lifehacker article suggests employing a folder called Hold:
...a temporary holding pen for important messages you'll need quick access to within the next few days. If you're waiting on someone else to get back to you with crucial information, or you're maintaining a thread about a time-sensitive topic, keep it in the Hold folder. ... Examples: a FedEx confirmation number for a delivery that's on its way, or a message from a co-worker that says, "I'll get back to you Tuesday re: The Big Project."
That's a new one for me. I think I'm going to start employing that. I normally just keep those in my inbox and they annoy me because they just sit there and then they fall beneath the fold and cause clutter. Hold folder it is!

The rest of that post is about putting everything that's done into one big Archive folder, which I think is going to cause a big headache later on that can easily be avoided with a bit of one-time organization.

Email yes, desk not so much...
I have about 20 folders in Outlook that are saved onto a shared server NOT my own hard drive. (As you can probably guess, I learned that the hard way.) Some are on specific projects/tasks (like app, intranet, redesign, social media). Others are more just buckets of places to save things off: Eloqua FYI, how to, personnel (promotion or re-org announcements, etc. that I may need to refer to later on).

I also have a Done folder with sub folders containing the most common types of tasks I complete. This may seem excessive, but I always have a record of what I have completed.

I suppose you could just save off everything into one massive archive and search for it, but more often than not, I need to browse the folder containing the bit of info I'm seeking. Plus, I set those folders up years ago and they have barely changed, so it's not like it's a huge imposition to archive an email into the appropriate archive folder.And if a project ends, I can simply save that whole folder off into an Archive folder.

What is amusing about all this organization, of course, is that to look at my desk at work you'd be shocked to learn that I put this much time into organizing my email in-box. But believe me, if I could Shift-Ctrl-V each receipt, menu, and print-out someone gave me that has notes scribbled on it, I absolutely would.

Next up, I will talk about how I've stopped using a notebook at work.

No comments: