Dec 14, 2012
A CBS news technology writer, Dave Johnson, just confirmed what I have been teaching for six years. It’s better to not waste time filing into multiple topic name folders. He recommends using your mail system’s instant search tool instead. Here’s that article:
Thanks Dave, good to see that trend is catching on!
However, I vehemently disagree with the second part of Dave’s recommendation where he says to just leave the e-mail in the inbox and search it from there. Please, don’t do that!
Why? Because it leads to big problems.
Don’t Leave Mail in the Inbox
The main problem is you can’t tell which of your e-mails you are done with, and which e-mail needs more attention—it becomes one big mess. Then, you spend hours per week rehashing your mail, constantly re-reading things in the hope to find those things that you think you still need to take action on.
Instead, I say use the inbox as a 24-hr Triage location, and get all mail out of there by the end of the day. Triage means you will make quick decisions about new mail, and move it on. How?
Inbox as an Emergency Room
Think of your Inbox as an emergency room waiting area (see my article on that). You’re looking for actions that you need to take—you are focused solely on that. Once you find an action in an e-mail, if you can’t or don’t need to do it now, immediately convert the e-mail to a properly prioritized MYN/1MTD task, and then move the old mail out of the inbox into a single folder (I call it the Processed Mail folder, but you can call it anything you want). Any mail that doesn’t need action move there immediately. Everything you don’t delete goes there. Try to empty your inbox each day.
Huge Control Boost
You’ll be amazed at how much control this gives you. You now can clearly see what mail needs more attention, and what doesn’t is instantly gone. Pending tasks are in your task system where you can manage them. It prevents dropped action requests and greatly lowers stress.
And since you are no longer multi-folder filing, you will get hours back each week that you would otherwise spend on parsing mail (and searching for it; multi-folders are very slow to search!).
Give it a try!