Okay, we have made decision whether to take the blue pill and become tag based or whether to hold onto the old time file folder system and now it’s time to do some organizing. In either case, the first task is to figure out some sort of system for organizing the data. After all, part of the reason we are doing this is to ensure that we can find stuff later on.
Of course there are several organizational methods being promoted in the world, with perhaps the most prevalent among geeks being the “Getting Things Done” model. They all have much to offer, but ultimately whatever scheme you develop has to work for you.
Personally, I have moved to a file folder based system that is organized around the several spheres of my life – church, home, denomination, emergent, etc.with a few special folders for pending tasks.
One of the nice things about Outlook is the ability to create settings for each folder regarding an archiving and deletion policy. What this means is that I can create folders where the data contained in them is either moved to an archive or deleted automatically after a certain period of time. This is great for things like newsletters or prayer requests which I want to hold on to for a time, but have an expiration date after a month or two. Once these are placed in the correct folder (either manually or via a filter) I don’t have to worry about cleaning these out again as the system does it automatically.
So, having set all this up, it’s time to tackle the task at hand, and here is the most important tip that I have discovered along the way: resort your inbox by sender.
You see, most of us arrange our inbox chronologically, attempting to process the information as it comes in. This is fine with a relatively empty inbox, but once the inbox begins to get filled, it can quickly become overwhelming as the weight of days of content bears down on us. This leads us to simply give up without moving forward.
What I discovered somewhat accidently is that resorting my inbox by the sender helps me to better recognize patterns of information that I can’t see when I am limited by chronology. It also helps me more quickly identify those things than have lingered in the inbox that should have been deleted a long time ago but that I missed as they scrolled down to the bottom of the list.
One example of this is Facebook notifications. I get regular emails notifying me of messages left on my Facebook account and I generally try to delete them as I go. However in the busyness of life, I sometimes forget. Sorting by sender yesterday led me to realize that I had 8 of these in my inbox so that I could quickly delete them.
You may have some other schema for presorting your inbox in order to discern the organizational patterns already present, but personally I find that I get more accomplished when I simply hit the sort by sender tab and get to work. I often can empty my inbox in half simply by doing this and recognizing things that can easily be deleted.
Between developing an organization method and resorting I think that you might find the possibility of having a clean and lean inbox a strong possibility.