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Get organized: 6 ways to zip through e-mail clutter

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Some people are deleters and some are hoarders. Either way, you can learn from these e-mail efficiency tips:

  1. Treat e-mail as you should paper. Handle each item only once, and act, file or delete it.
  2. Empty hourly. Treat your inbox like you treat your mailbox at home, says Merlin Mann, creator of productivity Web site “You wouldn’t store your bills inside your mailbox.”
  3. Add subfolders for storage. Not sure what to do with a message? That means you haven’t created the right “home” for it yet. Set up subfolders for storing messages by project name or follow-up date.
  4. Sort messages alphabetically by sender. That helps you delete dozens of messages at a time. Example: E-newsletters can eventually clutter your inbox; delete all but the most recent issue.
  5. Turn off the automatic notification of new messages, which distracts and wastes time. (In Outlook, go to Tools, Options, Preferences, E-mail Options, Advanced E-mail Options.)
  6. Search more easily by changing the subject field. Add descriptive words to the subject line that will help you find what you’re looking for later. Example: “Interview Tuesday” becomes “Notify Jim Bell of interview on 2/15.”

Quick tip: Can’t find a message? Use Lookout, a downloadable freebie from Microsoft that becomes accessible via Outlook’s toolbar. For ferreting out e-mail, Lookout is smarter than Outlook’s Find function. For instance, it pokes into attachments and PDF files.  

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