How _not_ to organize your mail

I get a lot of mail each day, and often a lot of the mail requires me to do some sort of work to reply.
Often, I’ll open a mail and then realize that it’s going to be a while before I’ll have a chance to provide a good reply. But once I open it, the mail gets marked as read; so if I closed it, I’d probably forget about it forever.
I’d also tried flagging messages in outlook, but that had a few problems. I like to sort my view by conversation topic, which makes it difficult to find flagged messages. And flagged messages are still easy to ignore.

Thus I’ve gotten in the habit of just leaving the mail open as a way of tracking outstanding items.  It’s tough to ignore the message when it’s sitting on your desktop. Then about every two days, I’d plow through all the open messages and deal with them.

It seemed like a good idea … until my computer crashes or reboots (usually from an auto-install of a critical update).

Comments (8)

  1. Niall says:

    I do the same thing, and also use the same approach with webpages that someone suggests I read.

    The thing is that if the computer crashes and no one chases you up over not answering the email, it obviously didn’t matter in the first place. So you’ve actually saved yourself the time of replying.

    It’s an efficiency gain – you don’t have to waste time replying to messages where the reply won’t provide any value, and you don’t have to waste time thinking about what’s important enough to deal with because the occasional machine crash does this for you 😛

  2. Teis Johansen says:

    If you are using Outlook 2003, then you can use search folders to gather all the flagged messages. By default there is a "Marked for follow-up" search folder, but you can create your own. I have one marked "Good to know" which contains all messages marked with a blue flag – and it is sorted by conversation.

  3. David Smith says:

    "until my computer crashes or reboots (usually from an auto-install of a critical update)."

    Possibly the worst feeling in the world.

    And here’s another vote for sorting by flagged type.

  4. Ben Fulton says:

    Mike Stall comments on how not to organize your mail…

  5. I find Outlook’s search folders feature really handy. I’ve got a "for followup" folder that automatically includes everything that is flagged (sorted by flag color so I can have different urgency levels). I just go through that folder periodically….

  6. cyphunk says:

    Here is what I do. I use, as you tried, flags. Then I setup… and this is where you might get lost… "search folders". The folder shows me all messages which have a certain flag. I have search folders for:

    * Messages I sent and am waiting for a response on.

    * Things/research/tasks/etc that I need to deal with in the near future.

    At the moment, you can only do this with Mozilla Thunderbird. But it WORKS. I just press the number 1 on a message and it gets flagged for followup. Then I use that folder and when I’ve compelted something I press 0 and unmark it. DONE.

  7. cyphunk says:

    Ahh, I see someone has said this works in Outlook now as well. Cool. Yes, I’d suggest using search folders liberally.

  8. Matt Adamson says:

    I find the most effective way is create a To Action folder in out look and then sub folders





    Things I need to deal with in the next day are obviously critical and then lower priority tasks obviously take longer.

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