The World is Divided
There are literally billions of people using email today, but every one of those individuals can be categorized into one of two groups, filer or non-filer.
Non-filers are those people who keep every message they’ve ever received in their inbox. It’s hard to believe these people exist, the thought of it almost gives me a nervous breakdown, but trust us, they’re out there.
Filers are the people who file messages out of their inbox into folders. The complexity of these filing systems ranges from several folders to dozens.
Over the past two decades, there have been heated debates on which method is more effective. Filers have been accused of wasting too much time organizing their inbox, while non-filers have been called unorganized and sloppy.
Both strategies have their drawbacks, which is why you should try to find a happy medium between the two. Leaving every message in your inbox is a good idea in theory because they’re all right in front of you, but the problem is they aren’t prioritized and if you have more than a dozen or so messages they can easily get lost in the shuffle. On the other side, having folders is helpful for organizing your mail into buckets to ensure easy accessibility, but any message that requires action should remain in your inbox until that action has been taken.
Bottom line: It’s advantageous to have several general folders meant for filing once actions have been taken or for storing reference-type emails. Don’t go overboard with folders though, because an overly complex filing system quickly loses it’s effectiveness. A good rule of thumb is once an email is opened execute an action before moving on to the next email or task. does it need to be stored for reference? do you need to respond? Take action on each message before moving on.
The Other Side:
Although we’ve outlined some effective email processing tactics, the other side of emailing must be addressed as well, which is sending email. All too often people send emails that require a response, but none is given. This could be for a variety of reasons of course, perhaps the recipient simply forgot, they’re busy or they just don’t want to hear from you. Either way you should implement a system that helps you keep track of your sent mail. The email service SaneBox offers such a system with their SaneReminders feature that enables senders to Cc or Bcc a specific time or date they need a response by, if it doesn’t happen by the specified time their email is sent back to them. Boomerang for Gmail also offers a similar system that helps users set reminders for themselves.
If signing up for such a service isn’t your cup of tea consider creating a Google spreadsheet or Excel doc that helps keep track of the important emails you’ve sent out. Find a system that works best for you and stick to it, forgetting about a message because you never got a response shouldn’t be a problem in your email life!