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Conquering Your Inbox: Changing Your Email Structure

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionAn inbox can be one of the most depressing time-sucks known to humanity. You can spend hours answering e-mails and engaging in discussion. Hours will fly by … yet you haven’t accomplished a bloody thing, and there are still 100 emails you still haven’t answered.

I’m not going to pretend I can help you solve all your inbox issues, but when I entered the Hamster World, I had to figure out how to tame my inbox fast, or I was going to drown in an email tidal wave. These tips involve organizing old emails and changing your email behaviors to stop email threads from growing too long.

Evaluate your email service. Is your email service doing the job for you? Consider the features. Can you create folders? How much space do you have? Can you search your emails? If you aren’t happy, notify your supervisor or IT, or open your own gmail account and have everything sent there. Then …

More after the jump! NWRC programmer Irma Lewis at the console of the ALWAC III computer in 1959. Image from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Forward everything you can to one inbox. One inbox, one inbox, one inbox. You waste time checking email from a bunch of places. If you can’t figure out how to do this, it’s time to bake cookies for your IT guy or gal and ask for help. (Remember: Always treat the IT guy or gal with the utmost respect.) Otherwise, check the “Settings” option in email service for each of your addresses, and have all your emails forward to one place.

Set up a reliable folder system. Some people rely on search to find an old e-mail. I prefer categorizing emails by project. Then I go into the project and run a search, which increases the likelihood that I’ll find what I need. It doesn’t matter. Do what works for you, as long as it’s easy. Remember the GTD mantra: If it isn’t easy, you won’t do it. Then, when you reply to an email and consider it finished, move it to that folder so you can get it out of the way and move on to whatever else is important at the moment.

Next up for inbox tips–changing your email habits so your inbox has a purpose.

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2 Responses to 'Conquering Your Inbox: Changing Your Email Structure'

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  1. I know having one inbox is efficient, but I’m clinging stubbornly to having three email addresses. There’s only one hardcore work address, and I can refuse to look at it after 5 pm and on weekends…but yeah, it’s still time-consuming to check multiple boxes.

    I’d also add it helps to be RUTHLESS when dealing with the inbox — although in the Tower, everybody saves everything for legal reasons, it seems. Hopefully that’s less true in the outside world?


  2. I wish wish wish I could say Hamsters didn’t hoard documents for legal reasons … oh but they do. They may not talk about it, but they still do it.

    Oh, and the caps on inbox size still exist, and they might be lower than in academia. I have seen many, many people locked out because they’ve kept every last PDF for the past few years.


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