Email: How To Use Folders To Fight Bad Behaviors

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Here’s one more note on email.  See the others here:

  1. Email: Don’t Get Fired
  2. Email: Don’t Fire & Forget

There has been a lot written about strategies for dealing with email.  Admittedly, I am not that “good” at following them.  Microsoft Analytics tells me I respond too quickly.

My excuse is that at an earlier point in my career, I was tethered to my blackberry (i.e., an investment banker).  As an aside, I loved my blackberry and would seriously consider getting another one for work related mobile needs.  

I tend to check email a bit too frequently, according to the experts.  It is hard for me to ignore that little bolded Inbox icon.  Other notifications have been disabled – the pop ups, sounds, tray icons, etc.  And email rules sort out a lot of the noise – deal notifications and other system generated stuff.  But, I tend to use emails as a bit of To Do list and lean toward being action oriented, so emails still present a challenge.

The downside of not being able to ignore a new email, is I tend to respond to emails too quickly.  Too quickly meaning two things.  Too quickly as in I should think about my reply a bit more.  And too quickly as in when you send an email, you tend to get more emails.

So my solution to instill a little discipline into my bad email habits is something I stole from somewhere (maybe a modified GTD approach).  I file new emails into a few folders:

  1. Today – Items that I need to deal with today.
  2. This Week – Items that need a response in a reasonable amount of time.
  3. Next Week – Items that have a longer time horizon.
  4. Follow up – Items with no immediate action but need to be monitored.

Filing new emails let’s me accommodate my zero inbox compulsions, while avoiding firing off responses to quickly.

Reviewing these folders is part of my weekly planning process.  

Generally, I will review the Today folder toward the end of the day.  And check the This Week folder at various points throughout the week.  The Next Week folder gets reviewed on Fridays and Mondays and shuffled into either Today or This Week.

There you go.  Hopefully, that helps someone.