6 Steps to Take Back Control of Your Email

We all know that email is one of the biggest time-sucks out there. One of the main challenges is what to do with an email once it's been actioned. Should you keep it? If so, where should you file it so that you can find it again? What about emails that don't fit nicely into one category? How many levels of sub-folders should you have? And so on.

It doesn't take long until you've got a list of folders as long as your arm, duplicate emails in multiple folders, and still you can't find that one email you need to refer to.

The answer is, of course, to do away with all these folders so that you don't have to waste time making these (time consuming) filing decisions. However, if you're going to trash your filing system you'd better make sure you have a darned good alternate way of finding those old emails.

"Google" for Email

Fortunately, help is at hand in the form of Lookout - a plug-in for Outlook that replaces the crummy built-in search with one of Google-like power.

Here's how to use it to take back control of your e-mail archives:

  1. Create an "Archive" personal folder.
  2. Move all your old emails into this folder and delete your other archive folders. I know it sounds extreme after all the work you've likely put in organizing them, but bear with me.
  3. Sort your emails by type and delete all the calendar-related ones (meeting requests, acceptances, etc) and other non-message emails - task requests and so on. If you're really feeling like a martyr, you can go through and delete all your spam too.
  4. Install Lookout on to your PC. You'll need to have the .NET framework installed first. Don't worry, you don't need to know what this is - just install it and forget that it's there.
  5. Let Lookout index your emails. I have about 35,000 in my Archive folder and it takes about 7½ minutes to re-index the lot from scratch.
  6. Start searching for - and finding - emails. That's it!

Optional but recommended: learn how to use Lookout's advanced search capabilities. Nine times out of ten, the basic search will return the email you're looking for. Sometimes, however, this returns too many results and so you'll need to search on more than one criteria, and here's where the advanced search options will save you scrolling through too many results.

Ongoing Maintenance

On an ongoing basis, say, every couple of months, delete all your sent mail so that it is moved into your Deleted folder. Sort your emails as described above, and then move the lot into your Archive folder and re-index. How's that for easy email management?

Posted on: September 29, 2005 | No comments

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