E-mail Tip: Delete, File, Action

I’m an organized person and don’t operate well with clutter. That includes a cluttered room, cluttered desk, and a cluttered inbox. I believe that for as long as I’ve used e-mail, I’ve made an effort to keep my inbox as small as possible.
My process is similar to what experts say to do in keeping your snail mail pile small. As soon as you bring the mail in the house, do the following steps:

  1. Trash anything that’s junk or read, but not worth keeping.
  2. File anything that is worth keeping. Try to do it right away or put it in the room where it belongs for later filing when you get into that room. For example, I put health-related paperwork in the office. When I get to the office, I file it.
  3. Act on anything needing action. While we may not need to pay the bill right then and there, bills can go into a file for time sensitive things. RSVP for party? Fill it out, or if you don’t know — file it under time sensitive. Pay bills? Pay them right there and put the date where the stamp goes — the date should be the day you need to mail it, not the day it’s due.

E-mail works the same way. It’s easy to scan and delete obvious junk that slipped through the filters as well as “Fwd:, Fwd:, Fwd:” messages and jokes. I read the good ones.
Anything in my inbox, I need to address as soon as I can or they’re a reminder of a current project I’m working on (I only keep ONE e-mail from the project and the rest filed under Current Work).
Newsletters and articles automatically go into the Newsletter folder. These I read whenever I need a reading break or information.
Regular e-mail from a non-profit organization goes into one of two folders for that non-profit. One is under Personal (my Inbox folder) and one is under Education for filing away. So those under Personal are the ones I need to act on, but I want to keep these separate from my regular Inbox folder. See below screen shot of my Personal folder and its subfolders.

Less time sensitive stuff needing action go into the Follow up (action and e-mail) or Respond (e-mail only) folder.
If I am waiting for something and need to follow up at some point, it goes into my Waiting folder. For example, I’m waiting for a judge’s response for a program I’m chairing. I check the waiting folder to remind myself to follow up with the judge when an agreed upon date passes.
Just checked my Waiting folder and deleted a handful of e-mails since the project is over or action taken. Ah, feels great.

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