We tend to look at email folders primarily as organizational tools. Depending on your personal preference or firm policy, you may have folders for each client or matter, for special projects or internal working groups, or you may even have folders arranged to mirror an existing paper file system.
But email folders can also serve as incredibly simple and effective productivity tools. Here are a few examples:
- _Monday and _Friday. When you have a busy schedule, it’s natural to read a less-than-urgent email and think to yourself: I’ll come back to that before the end of the week or I’ll take care of that on Monday. But within a few hours the email is buried under a pile of fresh messages and the chances you’ll forget skyrocket. Solution? Create folders _Monday and _Friday and sort the less urgent emails accordingly. When the day arrives, do not let yourself leave the office until that folder is empty. Block off an hour on your calendar on the corresponding day to make sure you have time to take care of the old messages.
- _Waiting. If you’re sending out an email that requires some kind of response — feedback on a draft, an answer to a question, confirmation that something has been completed — CC or BCC yourself on the message and then move the copy you receive into the _Waiting folder. Take a few minutes each morning or afternoon to run through the folder so you can keep track of your outstanding requests and follow up as necessary.
- _Reference. If there are emails you find yourself returning to regularly, like an email with a list of important phone numbers or email addresses, consider moving it into a _Reference folder where you’ll be able to find it more easily. Block off 30 minutes on your calendar every couple months to quickly scan through the folder and delete or re-file anything you find you’re no longer using regularly.
And if you’re wondering why there’s an underscore before the folder names, the reason is simple: since folders are sorted alphabetically by default in most email clients, the underscore will move them to the top of the list.