Friday, May 20, 2011

Tips for managing email inbox overflow

I'm guessing many people feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of email we get each day. Between student messages, administrative stuff, keeping up with professional readings, blogs, newspapers, etc, not to mention non-work related stuff - I wouldn't be surprised to learn that most teachers deal with 200 to 300 new emails each day, if not more. My own netiquette habits have changed as a result - I used to try to acknowledge many messages, as appropriate, with a simple "thanks" or other short indication that the message was received.  Not anymore - it just isn't possible due to volume plus I've become more sensitive to not clogging up someone else's inbox with unnecessary messages.

To help you cope, here are a couple of tips for managing your inbox. The first one has to do with setting up an auto-archiving function so you don't have to spend time every few days manually sorting email into the correct folders. The second tip is about setting up a daily filtering system that will automatically send certain categories of emails that don't require action - like professional reading and newsletters - to the appropriate folder. You'll still need to read it at some point, but at least this is a way to cut down on the amount of time you spend each morning culling and sorting.

First, auto-archiving from the blog the

Setting up AutoArchive is a very easy process. Go to Tools > Options > Other > AutoArchive, and then choose the settings that work best for you. My personal preference is for a weekly cleanup, and to be informed when it’s about to do so. Another thing I like is to collect all of my archived data into just one archive folder (Archive.pst), and then as the year progresses I will manually move the old data to monthly archives. These are the settings I recommend for easy organization:

  • Turn on – AutoArchive every week
  • Turn on – AutoArchive prompts
  • Turn off – expired item deletion when AutoArchiving
  • Set Archive.pst as default archive file

2 – Setting AutoArchive Properties for Individual Folders

If you want to set the properties for your individual folders, do this:

Select the folder > Right Click > Properties > AutoArchive and then choose the settings you want. Don’t forget to repeat this for each folder that you wish to archive.

Recommended settings:

  • Turn on – Clean items more than 1 month old
  • Turn on – Move old items to default archive folder

Next, daily filtering via the Lawyerist blog (using Outlook):

You probably subscribe to lots of bar association emails, blog updates, even the Lawyerist Insider newsletter. When there’s lots more urgent stuff piling into your Inbox, you often need to place those subscriptions to one side for when you have more discretionary time.

Using Outlook’s Rules & Alerts feature to move routine emails into subfolders will automatically clear non-urgent email out of your Inbox, making it easier to scan in those moments when you’re doing Inbox triage. It’ll also give you a quick visual of what publications you need to read when you can.


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