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    Email – Finder or Filer?

    I just read a great blog post here that speaks to a transition I recently made myself.

    I have been an Exchange/Outlook user since 1996, before Outlook was even a product.  During those years I developed systems of email folder heirarchies that I used to “file” my email.  These heirarchies changed year-to-year as I changed projects or jobs.  This filing helped me find relevant email on any number of topics when required.

    I also have a no-delete policy for email.  I don’t delete anything.  My theory is that storage will continue to get cheaper, and search functionality will continue to improve.  Once my mailbox size became large, I started creating an annual “PST” archive file so that my primary mailbox would stay manageable.  Over the past twelve years I’ve amassed many gigabytes of email.

    Last year I began using Google Mail’s web interface as my primary personal email client.  Around the same time I saw an “Inbox Zero” presentation by Merlin Mann which was very thought provoking.  After a short time my habits changed dramatically from being an email filer, to an email finder.  I highly recommend it to anyone who spends time moving emails from your inbox to other folders in an attempt to organize your email.

    When using Google Mail, I immediately archive any message that doesn’t require me to perform a follow-up action.  Those that require follow up stay in my inbox until I’ve completed the task.

    When using Outlook I flag messages requiring follow-up.  Messages from high-volume email distribution lists are automatically moved to Inbox subfolders via the Rules feature.  Others emails simply stay in my Inbox or their distribution list folder until Outlook AutoArchive moves them to a PST file.

    The advantage to “finding” is that you don’t spend time filing on a daily basis.  I don’t even label much as I can almost always think of keywords, senders, or recipients that narrow my search sufficiently.  The only filing and labeling I do is automated with filters.  Email from active distribution lists gets automatically tagged and/or filed appropriately.

    Are you a finder or a filer?


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