How To Internet

Be more productive instantly: stop filing your email into folders

Overload! How Too Much Information is Hazardous to your Organization
Overload! How Too Much Information is Hazardous to your Organization

On any given day, Web Watch receives between 500-1000 work-related emails.    And we’re not even counting those emails that are routed directly into spam or junk folders.

While that may sound like a lot of email, the vast majority of those messages are informational – things that Web Watch needs to know about, but not anything that we need to actually do anything about. 

So we file those away into various folders for future reference if needed, leaving our Inbox mostly clear for those important messages that we actually need to read and take some action on.

But a recent study by IBM has found that maybe Google (and therefore, Google’s approach of how GMail is structured) may be the right way to do things all along.

How’s that?

That maybe, instead of wasting our time carefully filing all our emails into appropriate file folders for future reference (here’s a folder for Dan’s emails, a folder from the Boss, a folder for Sales, etc) that all we really need to do is STOP FILING OUR EMAILS INTO FOLDERS and just lump them together into one giant pile of email goodness.

The philosophy is that today’s search engines/email programs are sophisticated enough to help us find emails faster than the time it takes to file emails away into different folders can be.

While folders do help with email organization and quick retrieval, it can become overly burdensome when you’re dealing with hundreds or thousands of emails a day.  The study shows that we were spending up to 20 minutes or more a day in just filing emails.  Switching to using a single email bucket for storage, and you can gain at least an hour’s worth of productivity a week.

This “single email bucket” is how Gmail works.  You separate your emails by tagging them with different keywords, but the emails still all reside in a single folder. 

And look how successful Gmail has been.

The other thing that Gmail has proven to be worthwhile is the automatic threading of related emails into a single conversation.  Other email programs can do this too, as it has also shown to be a more efficient way to track emails.

The main takeaway from the IBM study is to stop using your inbox as a “To Do” list.  Items tend to get lost in any significant email deluge.