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How I work with Emails 📮

June 22nd, 2021 · 2 min read

Since I’ve been working at home office and don’t see my colleagues so often anymore, I’ve noticed that I’m getting a lot of emails during the day. Although not all of them need to be answered right away or have high priority, they still clutter up the inbox. Thus, I needed a way to organize my emails with minimal effort while staying productive.

Let’s see, what I came up with.

(Quick Win)

While working through my inbox from the top, I always focus on the 2-minute rule, which I consider crucial for email management. Anything that can be done in less than 2 minutes, I do the first time I see it. Note, that it takes longer to read, close, open and re-read than it does to get it done immediately.

Once the 2-minute rule was applied to all emails in my inbox, I move the remaining ones to either of the following 6 folders.

1) Action

Having deleted, filed, and finished my “less than 2-minute emails”, I put those that require more than 2 minutes to deal with into the Action folder. When I am not able to answer the email without further research, I also create a task in Exchange to track the progress and save my findings, e.g. useful links.

2) On Hold

When I depend on a colleague to respond, the email ends up here. Often that person is already in the mailing list, so I use this folder quite occasionally.

3) Read Offline

When there is no further action required and in case all relevant information is available in the emails themselves or in attachments, I move them to the Read offline folder. I consider this as an advantage, as I can read those emails without having access to the internet — which happens quite often on the train from Fulda to Frankfurt.

4) Read Online

Same idea as for the Read offline folder, but with the difference that the email contains links to additional information or documents. Often, access is also restricted to the Lufthansa network, so that I have to connect to VPN first. In summary, reading and collecting all information takes a bit of time and the email is therefore less suitable to be consumed when commuting to work or back home.

5) Reference

Having filed all emails in the Read offline/online folders, there are two options left:

  • Delete the email
  • Move the email to the Reference folder for long-term storage

Worth mentioning is, that there’s no further structure; meaning no subfolders for customers, projects, teams, etc.

6) Travel

All emails that are related to travel in some way go her, including but not limited to:

  • Airline tickets
  • Train tickets
  • Hotel confirmations

Before a trip, I look in here, print out the appropriate receipts, and I’m ready to go. When creating the expense report eventually, all relevant documents are available in one place.

Final Thoughts 🤔

Since I’ve been using those 6 folders and the workflow described in this post, I spent less time in Outlook and can focus more on other topics — such as implementing pipelines in Azure Data Factory, working with Kubernetes or writing blog articles.

💡 It is important not to fall back into old habitual patterns.

Finally, I hope this post inspired you to rethink your email workflow. ▪

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