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  • How does everyone organize their emails?

    I have an interest and curiosity in how everyone organizes their emails with WFs, archives, respondingto, etc.

    I've danced between the most byzantine, complex librarian-like filing system of over 34- yes, THIRTY FOUR! -- archive categories, but have since realized the stupidity in that. I'm not a librarian. It's the modern age. I can use search features to find specific emails I want. A lot of people still use the doznens of archive folders and I can't begin to describe how much clutter that creates even though you first perceive the myriad folders as organizational. more storage folders is counter-productive!

    These days after listening to some brilliant merlin mann, stuff, I've got
    1. Action
    2. RespondTo
    3. Noisy
    4. LAter/A
    5. Later/B
    6. Later/C
    7. Archive
    8. Trash, delete, sent, spam, and drafts -- that's it!

    Put THAT in your pipe and smoke it.

  • #2
    Email relevant to a particular project goes in a folder labeled for that project. I have a few folders for general reference, like software registration information. Everything else gets tossed.

    Actions inspired by email go into my main system.

    Katherine

    Comment


    • #3
      Tossing emails and making smartffolders is a good practice.

      Tossing is good.

      How many emails do you have saved? I have over 8700 on my gmail account! yikes!

      Thanks again for the devonthink pro app rec in some other thread. That's magical. I also like omnifocus. familiar with that one? But I've finally just adapted to a highly minimalist organizational system of about 5 text files on my desktop. My amount of read-review is off the charts pulling from

      Paper-based

      Blue Folder
      E! Bio Articles
      E! Articles
      Miscellaneous financial readings
      Credit Card manual and quicken online banking
      Miscallenous letters from people
      Miscellaneous articles
      Magazines
      E!
      Us Weekly
      Non-Ficton
      Chess Books
      Finite/Infinte Games
      Calculus books

      Misc. Fiction books
      Huck Finn
      LotR
      Previously Read
      motivational books
      My Writings
      Expressing the Observation
      Validate Your Life
      Compassionate Reservoirs
      Validate Your Life blog (printed)



      Electronic
      Shrook RSS Feeds
      Mac
      Apple News
      David pogue
      Productivity
      Merlinn Mann
      GTD
      Lifehacker
      Celebrity, Film, Entertainment News
      Daily News
      Blogs
      Validate Life (my Blog)
      Koozrants
      FounderBlog
      Cameron Johnson's Blog



      Web Recreational Surfing URL Collections
      Mac
      Math
      Productivity
      Gaming
      Finances
      Misc
      APR
      Choice
      Ancient Times
      TV
      Star Trek
      Web Career URL Collections
      Career Related
      Iphone SDK
      Acting
      Software DEV



      Mail.App Newsletters
      *Macworld
      Mystery Method
      LACasting



      Iphone
      News



      Electronic PDF Collection
      math
      Science inspiration
      NLP
      Oreilly Computers
      Fiction (lord of the rings, flies, 80 days)
      PUA
      Game
      MM
      But that's a different thread...(wow, I need to consolidate and get a handle on that)

      What do you all do with email receipts??? Like amazon receipts, email notificationreceipts? I save all paper-based receipts for accounting, and feel I should do the same for email electronic recepits. The only question is seperate folder or main archive? I think I'll jsut dump them in main archive and then setup a smart folder to search for "receipt".

      re Project email folders. I tried that but my projects shift so a folder I designate for a certain project quickly evolves into a nother project, becomes outdated, or changes it's form so I think I'm done with project-based email folders for now.

      And trying to organize email into folders into categories like "friends", "family", "newlsetter", "fun", "career" etc is out, too. That overcomplicates. Smartfolders are key. If I want to have a "friends" folder to peruse recreationally I can set that up to pull all emails from certain recipients from the main archive.

      Comment


      • #4
        I have less than a thousand saved emails across all my accounts. (Not counting Sent or Trash, both of which I purge monthly.) I could probably toss half of those if I weren't too lazy to bother sorting through them. I was serious when I said I toss almost everything.

        If it's something I need or want to save long term, email is the wrong place for it. I clip the interesting content and file it in DevonThink (mostly) or elsewhere depending on what it is and why I want to keep it.

        Most of my project-related email is tied to particular clients, which makes filing easy.

        Katherine

        PS Glad to see that my recommendation of DevonThink was useful after all. It's an extremely powerful tool.

        Comment


        • #5
          Devonthink, Projects, and Email

          Sounds like you've developed an excellent system for filtering junk, useless, email from potential reference email (project important, good "hearty" gushy fun emails from friends, other important stuff, etc.).

          Although I liked devonthink, it might be a bit redundant for me. Why wouldn't I just store everything on my mac in ~/Reference? The fact taht you can browse links within the program has massive convenience, but most of the time, I branch out and end up surfing in safari (main mac OS browser) anyways. Although, it's incredibly powerful, I may stick to my uber simplistic and minimalist organizational method using apple-supplied "and free" apps. Details to this are in the works as a blog post that I'll definitely share on this board.

          Back to email topic...I hope to develop an as sincerely effective of filtering junk from "good to save" or "must save reference". 8700 emails is just outrageous. I'm getting there. Simplifying to only about 10 emails folders (including spam, trash, sent, drafts) is massively uplifting and clarifying.

          But on that note. What exactly constitutes a "project" in email? People throw around the world project and DA described it as a 2+ action "set of actions". Great, I get that. But I just have collections of todos organized by computer program "context" (I'm detailing a write up to this as well) and if I have 10 actions to do in @HTML Editor, I just do those whenever I want to work on web stuff, for example. This whole Idea of partitioning things into projects and making such a big defining line between "action" and "more actions" (aka project) at first seems brilliant, now I realize such defining creates clutter. I like my minimalist, sturdy organizing methods. they shine for me. But just wondered what other people's example of "project'" was considering that the word gets thrown around so frequently.

          The examples I frequently see are "Rearrange garage" or something cliche and absurd like that.

          Even if I have a website I'm working on for a client or something (a pretty big project) I'll just list that sequence of actions under the application in which I'll do the project (I have this all written up and worked out how it works), but the idea of creating separate project folders in email now seems loony. I'm not a librarian. I don't ever go back and use thoe proejct folders.

          That said, I just had a curiosity in very specific examples of what "project" entails for other people.

          The whole idea of "project support" had tremendous ambiguity as well. Where do you store that? Why not keep it all in the same place? That's what I'm starting to do again and that type of consolidating works wonderfully.

          If I have to rummage through a projects folder and an actions folder and then open up a "project support" folder just to work on one action on one project, that's a little nuts. I like consolidating all of that in a text file, siphoning out the actions I definitely have committed myself to doing in a different file -- incredibly simplicity.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by kewms View Post
            I have less than a thousand saved emails across all my accounts.
            Don't you get useful information in e-mail that is a reference you need to keep?

            Just curious because I just counted, and even after major trashing of old and outdated stuff current messages saved is 78890. Yep nearly 79 thousand e-mails from the last 20 years or so and yes I do actually refer to really old ones regularly. E-mail is a major reference file for me. I am trying to compact my myriad of folders, but often the searching is faster if I search only a single place . I've tried various other systems but they take a lot more work to transfer stuff from e-mail into them so I always come back to just keeping stuff I need for reference as messages.

            Of course it's one reason I can't easily convert my e-mail system out of Eudora to anything else. Most other systems can't handle that amount of e-mail.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Oogiem View Post
              Don't you get useful information in e-mail that is a reference you need to keep?
              Sure. Some of it is short term, related to work for a particular client. That gets saved as email.

              For the rest, my feeling is that email is the wrong tool. (This is in part because I once lost quite a bit of email because my mailbox was bigger than an early version of Outlook Express could handle.) So I pull the interesting bits out to other software. (Exactly which software depends on what it is. Structured data like software license codes requires a different system from unstructured information like musings on the philosophy of martial arts.)

              And I also throw a lot away. I've learned that I don't actually need to keep nearly as much as I think I do, either because other people (like IEEE) maintain an archive already, or because it simply isn't relevant outside of the original context.

              Katherine

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by kewms View Post
                For the rest, my feeling is that email is the wrong tool. (This is in part because I once lost quite a bit of email
                Interesting. I keep it in e-mail for exactly the same reason, have lost many important items when I tried other database or thoughts or general capture SW. Big text files work but are hard to maintain and manage, especially threads of conversations from lists.

                Most of my e-mail is not archived by anyone else or I *am* the official archiver. (I am the Secretary for some organizations so have to keep all e-mail relating to the Board meetings which are held electronically.)

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by validatelife View Post
                  Although I liked devonthink, it might be a bit redundant for me. Why wouldn't I just store everything on my mac in ~/Reference? The fact taht you can browse links within the program has massive convenience, but most of the time, I branch out and end up surfing in safari (main mac OS browser) anyways.
                  For me, the most valuable DevonThink features are Classify and See Also, both of which help me find stuff "like this."

                  But on that note. What exactly constitutes a "project" in email? People throw around the world project and DA described it as a 2+ action "set of actions". Great, I get that. But I just have collections of todos organized by computer program "context" (I'm detailing a write up to this as well) and if I have 10 actions to do in @HTML Editor, I just do those whenever I want to work on web stuff, for example. This whole Idea of partitioning things into projects and making such a big defining line between "action" and "more actions" (aka project) at first seems brilliant, now I realize such defining creates clutter. I like my minimalist, sturdy organizing methods. they shine for me. But just wondered what other people's example of "project'" was considering that the word gets thrown around so frequently.
                  From my current project list:
                  * Maintain (and learn about maintaining) bonsai
                  * Test for second degree black belt
                  * Close (former bank) accounts
                  * Mount magnetic latches for kitchen cabinets
                  * Complete 40,000 word report on thin film photovoltaics
                  * Complete study of silver paste for photovoltaic conductors
                  * Write 3,000 word feature on energy policy
                  * Maintain industry blog
                  * Research and write advertorials for (client)

                  (Not the full list. The first five are personal, the second five are business.)

                  Even if I have a website I'm working on for a client or something (a pretty big project) I'll just list that sequence of actions under the application in which I'll do the project (I have this all written up and worked out how it works), but the idea of creating separate project folders in email now seems loony. I'm not a librarian. I don't ever go back and use thoe proejct folders.
                  Take that 40,000 word report, for example. The relevant email folder contains 34 messages. There are several drafts of the letter of agreement and outline. There are several chunks of research done for me by my virtual assistant. There are several email exchanges with the client regarding deadlines, notes on interim drafts, and possible future projects.

                  There are *no* action items in the folder. It is strictly reference information. Action items are in my main system.

                  If I have to rummage through a projects folder and an actions folder and then open up a "project support" folder just to work on one action on one project, that's a little nuts.
                  Yes, that would be a little nuts. I would argue that it's misreading GTD to assume that a functioning GTD system has to look anything like that.

                  I basically have two modes: work by context, or work by project. If I'm working by context -- digging through a list of phone calls, say -- I look at the appropriate context list, start at the top, and work down, opening up reference materials as needed. If I'm working by project, I open up the project support materials and get to work. I usually have a list of project-relevant actions to refer to, but usually don't need it once I've gotten started.

                  Katherine

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Regarding saving emails as long-term reference I am with Katherine. I save those emails at the appropriate place, not in my email-program.

                    On both my Gmail and my corporate account I do save every mail I sent or received. Exceptions to the rule:

                    - issues from newsletters I did not read
                    - notification from social networks.

                    I put all those mails into one archive-folder (gmail does this anyway).

                    In addition I maintain the following email folders:

                    1. Just reply (but goes longer than 2 minutes). I copy those as NAs into my system, again I think Katherine got it right. I don't have a distinction between mails that need a long reply and those that need done something else before I can answer them shortly, they are all in this folder. This is enough as long as I put the NAs faithfully into my system.

                    2. Waiting for an answer. This is kinda waiting-for but I routinely forward some of these mails again and again until I got an answer.

                    3. Optional reading. For newsletters I did not kill when processing. I purge this from time to time or read some of them. Those that I read go into archive the others go to trash.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by validatelife View Post
                      I have an interest and curiosity in how everyone organizes their emails with WFs, archives, respondingto, etc.
                      * "Waiting for"s go into my GTD system (using lifebalance)
                      * Archives are saved in outlook files, broken down by year, with the current year's archive consisting of everything older than 3 months. This is completely unsorted, but is searched and index using google desktop.
                      * I sort mailing lists into folders using rules, as these are not time sensitive, so it's mostly read and delete. If it needs action it goes back into the inbox for processing into lifebalance.
                      * I have two special folders called >2min and online. I move messages to these folders as holding areas when I'm trying to clear my inbox, but these get emptied as soon as I can.

                      As others have noted, project specific emails get saved to out of the email system, into project specific locations.

                      - Don
                      Last edited by dschaffner; 07-05-2008, 06:49 PM. Reason: updated post

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by validatelife View Post
                        I have an interest and curiosity in how everyone organizes their emails with WFs, archives, respondingto, etc.
                        Just as I don't sort my physical inbox into WFs, responding-tos, etc., I don't sort my email inbox into WFs, responding-tos, etc.

                        I have an inbox, and I have about a dozen archive folders ("Friends & Family", "Miscellaneous", "Teaching", etc.). That's it. As nice as search can be, I find it's often too slow for all the 15,000 emails I have archived, so I keep folders and search within folders.

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