Has your email account become just another item in the list of things that you need to organize? Does it frustrate you to open it up and see it overflowing with email? Are you unsure of where to start sorting it all out? If you have already followed the steps I outlined in my post The 3 Steps That Will Organize Your Email, you are now ready for email folder organization that will conquer your inbox overwhelm.
Create Email Folders
The first step is to create email folders if you don’t already have them. Follow the steps below to set them up. If you do have email folders set up, read through the next few steps anyway You can then and add, delete or rearrange folders as needed.
Name Your Email Folders Sensibly
When you create names for your email folders, pick names that make sense to you so that you can easily find emails you are looking for later. I would start by creating folder names for specific people like your spouse, parents or children and then move on to other folders for your home or work.
Limit the Number of Folders
I have folder names for family and close friends. I also found having folders for friends from certain parts of my life consolidated the number of folders I had. For example, I have three close friends from college and we mostly text so we don’t email that often. I created a folder for all of them and named it college that way I can quickly find emails from any of them.
Besides folders for family and friends, you will need folders for filing away other emails. I suggest no more than 10-15 of these folders. This keeps the number of folders manageable, but still allows you to be specific and find important information.
Here are the email folder names that I use:
- Account Information-This is for any emails regarding log in or sign up information.
- Donations-This is for charitable donation receipts.
- Finance-This folder is for any information that has to do with your money.
- Home Records-This folder is for any record that has to do with your home.
- Insurance-I keep all home, car, life, and health insurance records in here.
- Meal Planning-I keep any recipe emails or meal planning ideas here.
- Pictures-I keep any pictures friends and family send that I want to keep in here.
- Product Warranty and Registration-I keep all registrations and warranties in here.
- School-Emails from teachers or professors. (If you have kids or are working on a degree)
- Travel-Put all email related to travel in here.
- Work-This is only if you have emails about work that you want to keep separate from your actual work email. For example, I keep emails about my teaching license and course work in here.
As you start sorting your email you will get a better sense of which folders you need and which ones you don’t. Don’t be afraid to rename a folder if a different name works better or delete one entirely.
Leave No Email Behind
Many emails in your inbox are easy to make a decision about. You either send them to the trash, unsubscribe, or save them. What about the ones that need further attention?
Even though I have always kept my email inbox relatively clean, I always had a few lingering emails that I never knew what to do with. This meant they had information in them that I needed at a later date, they required a more in depth response or the email had information I wanted to save or spend more time processing.
I solved this issue with the creation of 3 folders that made all the difference. I put stars or asteriks *** in front of those folders so they would always appear at the top of my folder list. It makes it easier to find information quickly, especially when I am on a mobile device.
This is for any email that I need to take action on. If you answer yes to either of these questions, that email requires actions.
- Does this email require a response? This can mean you need to answer someone, pay a bill or take some other action.
- Is there information I need from this email? Maybe there is a recipe you want to save or a linked article you want to read later.
If you don’t use coupons, skip this one. If you do use coupons then file any emails with coupon codes or promotions here. This also makes it easy for me to find these codes on my mobile phone when I am out shopping.
Most of these have expiration dates so you can easily clean out this folder once a month.
This is for emails that you are waiting on. This means you can take no further action on them from your end. For example:
- Emails that have tracking information for orders that haven’t arrived yet.
- Emails that you are waiting on a response from someone else.
The only trick to these 3 folders is that you must get in the habit of checking them regularly and purge them often!
When All Else Fails, Let Your Email Remind You
What if you are terrible at checking folders and important emails get lost in your inbox? You know you need to respond or reply to them, but you just forget. In that case I would recommend using Boomerang. I just recently discovered this productivity software and it’s amazing. You can use it with Gmail, Outlook or your mobile device. Here’s why I love this software.
- It allows you respond to emails now, but schedule them to be sent later.
- You can send out emails to return or “Boomerang” back to you at a later date when you need to respond to them.
- If can resend you emails to remind you that you are waiting on a response.
Remember all the people who said that technology would make our lives so much easier? It’s difficult to remember that when you are staring down an inbox filled with thousands of emails. However, with a little organization, the right tools and a little practice your email will be organized and under control in no time.
What are you waiting for. Start now!