Wednesday, April 7, 2010
What do you do with all those e-mail messages you want to save? Since I wrote about applying some of the suggestions from The Hamster Revolution to my own e-mail, people have asked me for more detail.
What The Hamster Revolution Recommends
The Hamster Revolution suggests these four e-mail boxes:
The numbers are actually part of the file name, and they ensure that "clients" come before "admin." Since the book is focused on a work environment, but acknowledges that you'll also get personal e-mail, the author says you might want to add another folder for personal messages.
What I'm Doing
My own version of that list is
Admin includes electronic receipts for work-related purchases, messages from my business insurance company, etc. I don't have a lot of admin.
Associates includes sub-folders for BNI (Business Network International) NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers), NSGCD (National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization), etc.
Clients is self-explanatory, isn't it?
Freecycle is a folder I added, because I'm both a Freecycle moderator and an active Freecycler, so I access this folder a lot and I wanted it at the top level.
Outputs include files related to the magazine I edit, my blog, my newsletter, etc.
And Personal is also self-explanatory.
While these six folders take care of most of the messages I'm saving for reference - my archive files. I used to have many more top-level folders, and I much prefer this more streamlined approach. But I did add on two other sets of folders.
1. The four folders at the top, with the --> in front of the name, are just extremely active folders that I want easy access to. The first one is the issue of the magazine that I'm currently working on.
2. The folders with the @ in front of them will look familiar to those who use David Allen's Getting Things Done. These are folders related to things on my calendar or one of my to-do (and related) lists.
So Calendar has detailed information about things on my calendar. Next Actions (or na) are the messages related to things on my to-do lists. Project Support is information about larger efforts, not simple to-do items. Someday Maybe relates to things I might want to do. Waiting For are messages where I'm awaiting a reply. Waiting for - Freecycle are messages about pending pickups of Freecycled items.
This is what works for me - a blend of two systems, with some of my own tweaks. But there are a number of other approaches that work for others.
Another Approach: No Filing!
A number of people argue that filing e-mail is just a waste of time, since search tools can allow you to find any message you want. Merlin Mann said, "Organizing your email is like alphabetizing your recycling!" Gina Trapani suggests that all you really need is three folders: Follow Up, Archive, and Hold (a temporary holding place for important messages you'll be referring to in the next few days).
I understand the arguments for this approach - and it does have a lot of appeal. I'm continually simplifying my filing system - but I'm not ready take the plunge to this system yet.
If you have an e-mail filing (on non-filing) system that works for you, I'd love to hear about it!