Friday, March 2, 2012

Declare Email Bankruptcy

It's ok. I've been there. 1000+ messages in the inbox? 200+ folders? How can manage the madness? First, you need to admit defeat and instead of trying to get better think about doing your work differently. Once you get there and want to try a new productivity-altering method, try the one suggested here:

You only need three folders! Not 10, not 100, only three. Trust me.

The info below is copied almost verbatim from A big props to Adam Pash and his book Lifehacker. If you don't own this book yet, please consider purchasing yourself a copy. You will be forever changed.

The Trusted Trio

Follow Up
These messages represent tasks you must complete; whether that's a response that will take more than two minutes (anything less than that, just respond on the spot!) or some sort of an action. All these messages represent an item on your to do list.
Examples of messages that might go here include: a request to update the web site, or a message from a long-lost high school friend who you haven't spoken to in years that you want to spend some time writing with updates on your life. To make sure you actually follow up on the messages in this folder, you must review it regularly. Alternately, when you add a message to this folder, make sure you also add it to your to-do list. Here's more on how to separate your email from your to-do's.

The Archive folder is your long-term email reference library. Place all the messages that contain information you may want to retrieve at some point in the long term future in Archive. Any completed threads, completed requests, memo's you've read, questions you had answered, and completed project email goes into Archive. Basically, whenever an email is "closed" but you may find it useful at some point in the future place it in Archive.
Dumping everything directly into Archive may seem scary to dedicated filers . It was to me at first. However, the archive is your "pile" versus "file;" Just remember it's completely searchable, and any message you place there will be retrievable using a well-crafted query.

The Hold folder is 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. For you GTDers (getting things done for those who are unfamiliar), items in the Hold folder might correspond with items in the next few weeks in your tickler file.
Examples of messages that would go in Hold are: 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."
This folder should be reviewed on a regular basis and cleared out as the message contents are no longer needed (ie, that FedEx got delivered or your co-worker gets back to you.)

What does email management have to do with the iPad? Well, if you've ever tried filing messages on an iPad into 100 folders you'll see the problem in about 10 seconds. Once you move to this method, you will find filing messages on your iPad may be quicker than using Outlook. You don't need the folders - trust me. Change your work life today. To further illustrate simplicity, consider the mind of Steve Jobs. Allegedly, when developers were told that the iPhone was to only have two buttons, the first response they gave him was that it was impossible. They brought prototypes with 8, then 6, then 4, but he held strong -"bring me a device that only has 2 buttons. That's it - 2 buttons." Today, that vision has realized the iPhone, iPad, and other "i" inventions. I'm suggesting that three folders follows the same line of thinking.

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