I posted a couple of weeks ago about how to claim email bankruptcy. The gist is to create a folder for anything from 2019 (and earlier) and dump it all in there!
But, now, what do you do with the email still in your inbox from Jan 1 until now that you never dealt with?
Almost all email systems/services have unlimited storage. So, you don’t have to delete any email unless that is a workflow that works for you. The search functions on most email services are also really great, so you don’t need a lot of folders/labels to organize emails you want to have access to, you can search for them.
If folders/labels are new to you and you want to start getting your email organized, I suggest two folders/labels to begin with ARCHIVE and HOLDING.
Holding is for anything you will need to have access to again but don’t want to use the search function to find. It could be something you need at your fingertips. Examples include the email from your boss with the access code to software, the email from HR with the link to your benefits service, the email about a procedure you don’t often do. Think of this as a holding place for something you need as a reference. Like the filing cabinet of your system.
Archive is for all the other stuff. The 2019 email you didn’t get time to deal with, the office newsletters from January, the memo requesting people to clean up the office kitchen after themselves, you get the idea! This is where you dump all the ‘other’ emails, OR you can also delete them if you prefer. But, remember most email services have unlimited storage so you really don’t have to. Also, some email systems have an archive folder/label option built-in.
Alright now that you have two folders and x,xxx emails in your inbox start going through them, and if they are NOT actionable items, move them to one or the other folder/label.
Once you have done a sort, this should leave you with only actionable items in your inbox.
This system works great for your personal email, as well. You can use holding for any orders you are waiting on delivery for, and then move them to the archive when they arrive. Archive is for all other things that come your way – newsletters, product sales emails, discount notices, etc.
But, if you now have more than 25-30+ emails in your holding folder that aren’t just transient items like delivery notices. You might need to add sub-folders to holding. First, think about how your brain works. Do you think of the person who sent it, when they sent it, or the topic? This is individual and will give you a starting place on how to set up the best folders/labels that will work for you. Start with one and add folders/labels as you need them. But, in the back of your head remember that you can always use the search function!
Here is my personal email account to give you an idea of how this could work for you:
INBOX – it is empty after I process email. I don’t keep ‘todo’ items in my email. It doesn’t work for me. Note: I’m not saying it is wrong.
HOLDING – I use this holding folder for amazon orders, Airbnb bookings, and other things I am waiting for or need to reference. I backed a friend’s Kickstarter in December. That email is still in this holding folder so that I am reminded about it. I could probably archive/delete it as I will get an email once it is ready to ship but I like the reminder 😊.
ARCHIVE – I don’t archive email in this account. I delete anything I don’t need or want. Anything that I want for search ability/reference I forward it to Evernote (I will cover that in a future Org Encouragement post). If you archive your email this would be where all the emails would be.
Let me know if this resonated with you. You can comment below or find me on socials! Tag me but also use the hashtag #OWJOrgEncouragement.
Find the full list of 2020 Organizing Encouragement here.