Some people are deleters and some are hoarders. Either way, you can learn from these e-mail efficiency tips:
- Treat e-mail as you should paper. Handle each item only once, and act, file or delete it.
- Empty hourly. Treat your inbox like you treat your mailbox at home, says Merlin Mann, creator of productivity Web site 43folders.com. “You wouldn’t store your bills inside your mailbox.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.