Forum

  • If you are new to these Forums, please take a moment to register using the fields above.
Announcement Announcement Module
Collapse
No announcement yet.
If you use Outlook for email, do you organize in folders, categories, or both? Page Title Module
Move Remove Collapse
X
Conversation Detail Module
Collapse
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • If you use Outlook for email, do you organize in folders, categories, or both?

    In Outlook email have used folders forever. Have 2 main folders: 1 for work, 1 for personal. Many subfolders (eg 100)

    Can see the benefit of categories (tags) as can associate an email item with >1 category.

    Have started using tags in other software: Evernote/internet browser/RSS feeds/financial program. Evernote has been my 1st software storing data where I have simplified folders (only 2..personal and work), and emphasized tags.

    Also (separately from Outlook) have many files on Windows PC: My documents eg MS word/Excel/notepad etc. These are in folders. Is there any way to "tag" these items?

    I like using folders for bookmarks in a browser. Simple to open multiple sites simultaneously eg "weekday morning-home" or "weekday-arrive at work".

    Main decision right now is how to organize email in Outlook. I also use a Blackberry, and it does not appear that Outlook categories are shown for email on the Blackberry (they are for tasks). I guess that's not a huge deal, as there are other ways to search for emails on the Blackberry.

    I'd like to have some standardization of tags/folders across different platforms to simplify life.

  • #2
    Back when I used Outlook, I switched from a mess of folders to a single one called "Archive". By my estimate, that move saved me about 27 hours/year.

    http://www.gtdhelp.com/200908/get-ri...email-folders/

    If you process email the way that Merlin Mann (the "inbox zero" guy) suggests, then you're just "making carcasses" from the emails you get. Process them, get them done, and maybe just keep it as a record (in an archive folder) for future needs.

    I know that many people will disagree with that suggestion, but it was a beautiful thing when I started doing it.

    Comment


    • #3
      Here are David Allen's best practices on this:

      https://secure.davidco.com/store/cat...DE-p-16426.php

      Comment


      • #4
        ditch action folders is my advice

        Following on from the previous comment, personally when I started to deal with much bigger volumes of work than when I first implemented GTD I found that having folders/tags in email just meant that I had to monitor two systems. Two lots of places actions could be, two places to organise & update in the weekly review, two places to decide between when I wanted to choose what to do next. in the end, as the previous poster put it, I followed Merlin Mann's advice and now i just strip anything out of my emails that needs doing & keep a single set of Next Action/Project lists with everything in it.

        Now when something comes in, I process it and toss it in a single archive folder. Sounds small but the weight of my mind is fantastic.

        Comment


        • #5
          I always keep this in mind: "NEVER use your email inbox as a to do list! For every email either file it, delete it, action it, reply quickly or put in your to do list." I usually have everything in this order and it worked for me. I only file the really important ones that contains very important details that requires much of my memory and put on-hold tasks in the to-do list folder. The others I just delete after putting action and replying to it. Hope this helps you!

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by productivity View Post
            I always keep this in mind: "NEVER use your email inbox as a to do list! For every email either file it, delete it, action it, reply quickly or put in your to do list." I usually have everything in this order and it worked for me. I only file the really important ones that contains very important details that requires much of my memory and put on-hold tasks in the to-do list folder. The others I just delete after putting action and replying to it. Hope this helps you!
            Well put. Most people don't mean to use email as a to-do list, but they simply don't create an alternate method. Prior to GTD, that was me! I didn't say "my inbox is my to-do list", but it certainly was. Just simply keeping that in mind can go a long way...

            Comment


            • #7
              Tagging takes time

              when you get 10s of email a day, and you want to mark them by, let's say, categories, it may take 30 mins. The thing is, when you need to find something, tags help.
              I tried this, and gave up at one moment, just because a lack of time. even flags...I am back to my chaos

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by bishblaize View Post
                now i just strip anything out of my emails that needs doing & keep a single set of Next Action/Project lists with everything in it.
                I second that motion! A separate email action folder is just one more excuse to procrastinate one some important NAs.
                Serge

                Comment


                • #9
                  I use folders & categories

                  Well mostly folders to gather project related email into the a common place. This makes it easier for me to move more quickly through my weekly review of projects and status.

                  I use categories to easily use an outlook rules to direct copies of email I send that I want captured with the projects. Actually, in practice that works best for me is for my @Waiting folder. Whenever I send an email that I expect a response back from, I add the @Waiting category and my outlook rule places a copy on in that folder. If they reply from my email, comes back with that same category and stores in the @Waiting folder. That is a folder that I process daily.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Converted

                    Well, created 2 new folders: "keep" and "temp"...I dumped all my previous folders into "keep". Now am assigning categories to incoming emails that are being saved into keep or temp.

                    Initial impressions of benefits of categories (tags) over folders
                    1- nice to be able to label an item w/ multiple categories
                    2- seems like it may take a little less time to add categories than decide which (of many) folders to place the item...however now that assigning multiple categories to many items, not sure it really does save much time.

                    Initial impressions of downsides of categories (tags) over folders
                    1- at this point (1 week into the change), it is taking me longer to find a particular email...hoping this process improves with time...I knew where all my folders were....

                    What views have you used successfully in Outlook to be able to find emails quickly?

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Folders, categories are they really different?

                      Tags or categories seem more appealing at first sight, because they are easier to assign and you can indeed assign more than one label to one item.

                      Interestingly, we did some research one a limited sample of email archives that had been labelled by users. One of our findings was that users hardly use the combinatorial possibilities of assigning multiple labels. We saw that although users start by assigning "well thought through" label combinations, they very quickly revert to a pattern where they systematically assign the same label combination to all emails pertaining to a certain topic. Although it is not felt as such, this boils down to the one-to-one mapping imposed by a folder based system.

                      In the same light I was very surprised to see the "move" menu option appear in the user interface of GMail, because they use a term that is closely associated to a folder system, for what is essentially a labeling operation. In addition, the move function combines the "apply label" and "archive" functions, thereby imposing the limitation that only one label is applied during the whole operation. Of course GMail does allow users to apply multiple labels, but the existence of the move function seems to suggest that they also think that the majority of users stick to the one mail / one label system.

                      That being said, I think that the standard user interfaces for tagging emails (certainly Outlook's) leave a lot of room for improvement, certainly when used over a longer period of time.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by guyw View Post
                        Tags or categories seem more appealing at first sight, because they are easier to assign and you can indeed assign more than one label to one item..
                        Since you've clearly spend some time on the matter, Id be interested to hear what value you think multiple tags can offer, vs general searches.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by bishblaize View Post
                          Since you've clearly spend some time on the matter, Id be interested to hear what value you think multiple tags can offer, vs general searches.
                          A well structured system of tags or labels offers many possibilities and normally you should be able to survive with far less labels than folders. This is best illustrated with an example. Suppose you are involved in several projects: “Project A”, “Project B” and “Project C”. Each of these projects has similar activities: they need to be staffed (Human Resources aspects), they require a financial follow-up and usually they have a planning. We have just defined 6 labels: “Project A”, “Project B”, “Project C”, “Staffing”, “Financials” and “Planning”. By combining a project label with one of the three others, we can create up to nine combinations.

                          The system is powerful both for applying labels as well as for searching, because a label system like this, allows you to control the granularity of your search: you could first look at all the emails of one project, but if that gives too many hits, you filter out by adding an additional label to your search criteria.

                          As I said in my previous post, we have gathered some real life data that indicates that normal users deviate from this “theoretically perfect” system. Here is an example. One user provided us with a sample of 1000 emails labeled with 20 different labels. With these labels he had formed 36 unique combinations. That number is already far below the theoretical number one would expect, but it goes further than that. About 30% of these combinations contain 3 emails or less, so these can be considered as marginal and can in any case never have significant productivity impact. Also, 93% of all emails belonged to 18 (50%) of these combinations. In practical terms this means that this user had set up a nice system of labels that could have used to create rich combinations of labels, but in reality he used 18 typical label combinations with an average number of 1000/18 = 55 assignments to each combination.

                          Now, if you compare that to a folder setup, where I would consider an average of 50 emails per folder the ideal value, you see that despite the potential of the label system, the user has evolved to something which is equivalent to a folder system.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            One of my Ahas recently was that I had a lot of resistance just labelling emails because I had to think about it. Moving to a single folder (whether pseudo-folder labelling like gmail or old skool folders like outlook), it was amazing how much easier it was, to do something i hadnt event noticed was an effort before.

                            Clearly the reverse of the coin is that i have a much less fine grained search facility further down the line. Gmail's search is great. Outlook's sucks.

                            Do you think that having the quicker search down the line is worth the extra thought-cycles on the front end? And do you find that you have a lot of info stored in email that you're constantly referring to later on? Also are you in a large org? (it wouldnt be worthwhile in my company but then we're tiny and most of our plans are approved in in ad-hoc meetings, email has a different use to medium or larger companies, where decisions take place within emails).

                            Sorry for the barrage of questions by the way

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              and also

                              By the way, great tip for anyone using outlook - when youre reading a message you can type over the subject line with your own subject instead. There's no input box for it so its not obvious at all, but just start typing.

                              Instead of "Subject:Hello", you can have "Subject:Msg from Bob with the final draft of his proposal" - makes searching in the future a tonne easier, and something you can selectively do for those occasional emails that you know you're gonna need to refer to, or after you've searched for it once.

                              Comment

                              Working...
                              X