Early in my career when I finished with an email, I filed it away in one of my organized folders so I could easily find it again if I needed it. I found myself spending a lot of time moving emails to the proper folders, moving emails when I came up with a better structure, etc. I thought I was optimizing for retrieval. Most of the time when I needed an email, I would just go to the search box and bypass the folder structure.
The further I progressed in my career, the less I used folders. I was still able to find what I needed quickly because I knew what pieces of information I needed during the search: who sent the email or what few words were in the email. Now, I only use a few folders:
- The Inbox holds messages that require follow-up or actions by me
- When I finish a task, I archive the message
- Receipts/invoices I email to Expensify and then put them in the Receipts folder
- I star travel and upcoming events so they show at the top of my inbox
- I only delete spam and meeting acceptance/declines
This system has worked well for me the past 4 years. I rarely let an email go unanswered/unread for more than a few days. I typically don’t leave more than 25 emails in my inbox because I do have the time after work or first thing in the morning to go through them.
I’ll admit that I check my email too frequently because it’s easy to click through them when I’m in a meeting. Ideally, I’d like to be able to check my email three times a day - once in the morning, after lunch, and then after COB. I then either add information to my notes or todo list based on what is needed.