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Out-Outlooking Outlook

Email is either the best invention ever, or the bane of your existence. Either way, this technology invented in the 1960s is a necessary tool.

How do you deal with all of the messages that find their way to your inbox? Google "Rethinking Email" for 7,940,000 articles on the subject. 651,000,000 Google results will tell you how to deal with "too much email". Or, if you want to use the modern term, search for "inbox zero" to find 45,200,000 suggestions for getting your inbox down to nothing.

GMaaces. uggests you prioritize:

Here is how I try to out-Outlook Outlook 2010.
  1. All incoming email goes to the Inbox (no automatic filtering).
  2. In a PST file called "Projects" I have a sub-folder for each project I'm working on.
  3. I use "Quick Steps" that mark the email as "Read" before moving it to the relevant sub-folder (this is for emails I receive for ongoing projects, not for one-offs, which would be too much).
I only move the emails to the relevant folders once I have dealt with them. If something still needs to be done, I leave it in my inbox. This way my inbox doubles as my "to-do" list, which is a back-up for our main project management system (which is not a Microsoft tool).

I don't use Categories, Flags, Reminders, or Tasks - it just seems like too much effort. I sometimes create a Calendar entry if there is something that I must absolutely do on or by a certain date, but that is rare because our team's project management system takes care of that for us.

I don't usually peruse the sub-folders for emails when I need to refer to them. Instead, I use Outlook's excellent instant search feature. I prefer to input the search parameters manually. I suppose I type fast enough that entering subject:"project X" from:Bob hasattachment:yes in the search box doesn't slow me down. Here is a healthy list of Outlook search terms you might find handy.

But, you know what, there is still too much email administration. I want to spend time getting on with my work, not futzing around with sorting emails. In fact, I'm so impressed with Outlook's instant search that I'm reconsidering the whole idea of organizing my email into project-specific folders. Why not just dump all read emails into one PST file called "Read Mail" and use instant search to find what I'm looking for? That's sort of what I do, anyway, right?

According to this Lifehacker article:
We've long recommended filing away email into folders for better organization, but a study by IBM Research finds that just using the search function can be much faster than navigating through folders to find old messages...In the end, though, finding those emails by digging through folders took 58 seconds, on average, while merely searching for them took 17 seconds.
Should I store all my read mail in a big, disorganized pile in its own PST (not the Inbox)?
How do you manage your email?

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