June 15, 2015
In all my classes I talk about using a single folder instead of using multiple Outlook folders when filing mail. Here’s why: Speed! Single folder filing is much faster both when initially storing mail and when finding mail. I call it the Processed Mail folder, but you can call it anything you want.
Single Folder is Faster for Filing Mail
I know, having lots of individual folders feels very logical and orderly. And it mimics the old paper filing systems, so it just seems right. But using multiple folders is soooo slow! Because it’s so slow you’ll rarely file, and then everything ends up clogging up your Inbox anyway.
Rather, storing all mail in one folder is very easy and fast; just shift select or control select and drag everything to the one folder when you are done with it. Because it is so fast I can empty my Inbox every day using this approach. An empty Inbox feels great, and you can clearly see new mail in the Inbox as it come in.
Single Folder is Faster for Finding Mail
When you do want to find mail in that single folder, use Outlook’s excellent Search tool in that folder. Many people complain that the Search tool doesn’t work for them (too many returns), but if you are willing to use simple field-based searches in that tool when needed, you can narrow your search and find what you need almost every time.
Also, finding mail in a single folder is easier because you can sort all your mail in that one folder by sender or by subject—that often helps you find the mail you are looking for.
When it comes time to archive or delete your oldest mail, you only need to open one single folder, select the oldest mail at the bottom of the date-sorted folder, and relocate or delete in one step. That’s so much easier than opening 40 or 400 different folders, one at a time, and doing the same.
Great for Use with Categories
All that said, some mail really should be filed by topic. For mail that you must organize by topic use Outlook Categories, within the single folder. Then you can group your mail by category, and visually find it that way.
Every student of mine who has switched from multiple folders to using one folder said it was life changing—they say it is so much quicker and easier and that they finally are able to consistently keep their Inbox clean. So give it a try.