I get a couple of hundred emails a day for work. Many are part of an email conversation that spans several days or even weeks, so I'm loathe to just delete them outright, as I might need them for reference at some point in the near future. The consequence is that I have thousands of emails in my Inbox alone, most of which is no longer relevant. I use Thunderbird, so I have some organizing features available to me, but what I really need is a good, overall methodology for email management. Does anyone have any suggestions? Thanks!
A combination of various interpretations of the "zero inbox" strategy combined with the Get Things Done (GTD) process.
Possible actions per mail are:
Difference between basket and dedicated folders beneath work
Try to put everything into basket and just use the search feature. But maybe there are certain topics / projects / issues that you want to group together and be able to view in their entirety - so you put them in a appropriately named folder.
Another tip for the basket folder - depending on your mail application - is to use tags for enhanced search features.
What to do with the soft-trash folder
Delete mails from the soft-trash folder regularly, e.g. mails that are older than 3 months. This gives you a certain amount of backlog mails when you find out, that you need that mail that you deleted 2 days ago, b/c you thought you would never need it again...
I really like the Inbox Zero strategy. Of course, it requires some effort, but you cannot expect effortless handling of email, can you?
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Inbox Zero is hands down the best answer, as Manni suggested. After you are done with that check out Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity (Paperback)
It will help you refine your new found superpowers
To summarize the GTD process:
See the Wikipedia article for more.
I quit organizing my email because I felt like I was screwing it up and letting emails pile up and then I just couldn't find what I was looking for because I didn't know what folder I put it in. For what it's worth, I use Outlook 2003 and I get less than 30 messages per day.
Here's what I do now:
This is a bit extreme/unorganized but what I sometimes do is (in gMail) "Select All" and then glance through and deselect the important ones and then click 'Archive'. That leaves only the important stuff in the Inbox.
I have a lot more unnecessary email than I realize so this works really well for me.
As always, YMMV.