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Monday 29 June 2015

Keeping Email Organised

In the age where email is an inevitable tool and essential to our everyday life, I went about a personal mission to solve the behemoth problem, the email inbox. Tough, resilient and ever present the problem of having an uncharacterized amount of email stored in the inbox can be frustrating when there is a need to find a one specific thread for an important use.

Here is a personal tip on how to keep email organised.

I use a combination of the Mailbox App, the standard Mail Application on iOS and Gmail. You can adapt with different combinations of services, but for me these services are the most effective combination that keeps me productive.

I will be splitting this article into appropriate action steps that you could break up into chunks to either perform it all at once, or periodically. Keep this in mind, keeping email organised is a lifestyle and a habit. Change some small habits and you can have your email inbox "free" from clutter which keeps you notified of the most important things that need done.

You will need to know of the existence of the All Mail function in Gmail, which is basically an Archive of all of your read email.

Outlook.com has the same "Archive" feature which Google Mail has, you just have to make sure you update your Mail service by finding the button that says "Archive" at the top of Outlook.com and click it.

First actionable step:

Filter through your inbox manually.

Firstly, find email that are junk to you by using the search function that comes with most email clients (select all and delete). I suggest only family threads, travel tickets, receipts, keeping conversations that have indication of use or insurance for verbal contractual agreements, and other important things.

Secondly, the fastest way I found to filter through bucket loads of email is to find similar email threads and add filters to it. A detailed how-to add filters is detailed here.

Filters help you to find "topic" related emails that have been archived making it easy to find when the time comes. You could start with applying filters such as a specific Person/Service name, even activities such as "Soccer", "Coffee Networking Session", and etc.

It took me around 2-5 hours of organizing to filter through my inbox and you don't have to do this all in a marathon, but do it a few times in a week and you will have this done in no time.

Second actionable step:

Applying automated filters. 

This article from Mashable gives a good guide on automatic filters.

Like the above first actionable step. Applying automated filters to your frequent incoming email will ease the process of receiving email in the future. This so that you don't have to go through the entire process of manually filtering out a large bulk of email again in the future. All you will need to do is to manually filter emails that are infrequent.  

Third actionable step:

Downloading Mailbox app.

The Mailbox app integrates well with Gmail. (I have yet to try this app's functional use Outlook.com) It helps me make full use of the All Mail (a.k.a an archive feature) service on Gmail to its maximum potential.

The theory behind it is your inbox should be a place where you should only keep email that is of immediate importance and require your attention and action, emails that have been read and need to be kept for future reference or to signify completion should be stored away in an archive. This keeps your email inbox free of clutter and allows you to receive only the most recent email that needs your immediate attention.

The app comes with a whole lot of other features that allow you to put it off for later, remind at a later time, and etc. The best part of using the Mailbox app is it comes free. Other advantages include integration with Dropbox for backups and more (Mailbox has been acquired by Dropbox).

Using native email apps

Reasons why I still use the native Mail client that comes with iOS.

I receive a lot of email to my Gmail, but there are times where I have other accounts like specific work email, university email, hotmail accounts and other subscriptions that I would like to be notified for. Mailbox currently only allows connection to one email account, and does not facilitate other mail clients.

Other self-hosted or custom services need to be connected to the traditional Mail client that comes with iOS which I have found to be very good for notification across different accounts.

Mailbox + Gmail + Native Mail App

Why should you consider doing this?

Keeping organised allows me to respond quickly and effectively to inquiries that require my most immediate attention. Although the Mailbox app does not solve every mail client that I own, but it allows me to filter out, that is of most importance to me, my personal email, Gmail.

Stormtrooper photo AttributionNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by Jim Bauer

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