By Aaron Powers, IT manager, AITS
I think most of us will attest that we receive a lot of email these days, sometimes to the point that managing our mail feels like a full-time job by itself. I’ve helped a lot of users and seen many approaches to handling the task (and many non-approaches too). For the Windows users out there who don’t have a system in place, here are a couple ideas and tools that might save you some sanity.
Create subfolders and route mail automatically
You can add folders within your inbox to help organize mail by subject or sender – or anything that makes sense to you. I do this and then create rules – right-click a mail item and choose Rules>Create Rule, to automatically place mail in those folders for review at my discretion. For example, if I receive daily budget reports, which are probably important and need to be reviewed, I don’t necessarily need those cluttering up my main view. I can route those to a folder and when I’m ready for that information, I know where to find it. One email a day may not make much of a difference, but if you’re routing 100 emails a day, it can really save you some time.
Use flags and reminders
Many ways are available to keep track of items you’ve already dealt with, and here’s my basic approach. As I read through my mail items, I “flag” them. When I finish reading the item, if it was purely informational and I won’t need to interact with it again, I mark it as complete. Otherwise I leave it flagged, and if it has time sensitivity, I right-click it and add a reminder that will ensure it gets addressed by an appropriate date. I add the Tasks pane to my view, View>To-Do Pane>Tasks, which allows me to survey quickly any pending topics and plan accordingly.
One of my favorite features of the Outlook desktop client – for Windows – is the clean-up function. If I right-click my Inbox, then choose “Clean Up Folder,” it iterates through every mail item and gets rid of duplicate, redundant data. If there is a back-and-forth chain of emails, for instance, it might delete all items except the last – IF, AND ONLY IF, the last email contains all of the information from the entire chain. If the thread breaks into sub-threads, it will make sure to only delete items that contain information found later on, including attachments. Because I use my main Inbox folder as the primary email workspace, it really pays to cut down on the clutter and I run the clean-up function many times a day.
These are just a few ideas that may help some of you, but many more tools are available and alternative approaches can be taken. Don’t be afraid to reach out to AITS with questions or comments about email, applications, and especially, about how we can better help you succeed with technology!