Triage E-mail

If you want to get a handle on your e-mail, triage it.  I use a number of Outlook e-mail folders that seem to work fairly well for me. I based my approach on one advocated by David Allen in Getting Things Done. One of the key’s to success is to make sure the subject line describes the content of any e-mail that is saved. Here is my triage process:

A description of my Outlook e-mail folders

  • Somedaymaybe: contains anything I want to keep available for future use as a project and should be reviewed on a periodic basis.  The file contains potential projects and personal projects (such as vacations) that I might want to do.
  • Reference: contains material I want for future reference.  From time to time, I move all the contents to a network location that is backed up on a daily basis.  Moving the files reduces the size of my mailbox. Having a good subject line facilitates searches for files.
  • Project: any item requiring two or more steps is considered a project.  The folder is reviewed weekly.
  • Waiting for: contains items that have been delegated or sent elsewhere asking for information. The folder is reviewed weekly allowing me to address overdue items.
  • To Do: contains items requiring one step to complete that I choose not to complete when originally triaging.

Other ACTIONS in Outlook

  • Do IT: complete any associated actions and delete the e-mail at triage.
  • Move to Calendar: e-mails and attached documents needed for meetings are saved in the description of the meeting in Outlook, then deleted from e-mail.
  • Future E-mail Delivery: the future e-mail delivery function can be used as a ticker file. I forward the e-mail to myself for future delivery then delete the original.

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One Response to “Triage E-mail”

  1. hospitalcio Says:

    Great post. It is too bad that email tools have not evolved to make this easier. Ministry’s multi-million dollar email upgrade does a lot to handle the increasing volume on the backend, but the user front-end has not changed in 10 years of email. I have high hopes for a number of next generation tools like xobni that mine the information in your inbox and make it more actionable.

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