There was a time when I didn’t organize my email inbox. Email came in, got read, and piled up right there. Nothing (almost) was deleted, nothing was filed into other folders, nothing was flagged. If I wanted to find something I just did a search.
However, while my personal email remains a state of chaos, my professional email has become organized. Through this, though, I have found there are some dos and don’ts when it comes to creating folders for filing emails into.
There is such thing as too many folders.
I started with very specific folders for certain tasks. This seemed like a good idea until that email that could easily be filtered into two or even three folders. Or some emails in a thread could be filtered into different folders. Where do they go? It isn’t about picking the right folder, that was easy enough, but I have found that when it comes to trying to find that email again is when it can get a bit tricky, even counterproductive. I spent more time looking for a specific email, searching the various folders, than I really should have or needed to or had time to. But what was the answer?
There is such thing as too few folders.
The mass inbox of chaos was not the answer either. While this way meant I could just run a “search” and find what I was looking for in one spot, it didn’t solve the issue at hand. Sometimes I need to look back and check a specific topic of emails, say essay ideas, and I want those to all be in one area, or information on grading or scholarships I don’t want to have to search for each individual email or run a search for a few keywords; I want them all in one spot for easy access.
The single inbox also means that I perpetually have badges on my phone. If there are emails that need attention later or ones I haven’t got to but are not urgent, the single inbox doesn’t help me keep those things separated.
Being too specific creates more chaos.
This touches on the “too many” folders issue. The key is to be vague in the folder headings. Have just enough to cover the basics, but don’t get overly specific. Have folders that will cover everything within the heading “English” not “English papers” and “English notes.” If you choose, you can create subfolders. For my freelance work I have a main folder “Company Name” then subfolders, “to do”, “sent” etc. Having a “to do” folder is great for work that needs to be done on a specific date, or when the deadline is a few weeks away. This is the folder I will keep an eye on and reference when scheduling my bullet journal.
If there is something that needs attention now then I will mark it as “unread” and leave it in my inbox. This way when I see that badge on my phone it is a reminder that there are tasks that need my attention, and it won’t get missed until I go back into my to-do folder to schedule out the next week,
This method of organizing my email has been great for me, so long as I keep on top of filing things away. It makes things easy to find, it means when I open my email I see only what needs to be dealt with immediately, it keeps things neater, and it keeps my stress-level low. Seeing too many emails (read or unread) in my inbox makes me feel like they all need attention, now. Having them filed away helps to keep the workload organized, it helps me find that ever-important work-life balance, and less chaos is always better.