Navigating the Inbox Maze: Folders, Rules, and Searches—Oh My!

Mon, Jun, 03, 2013 @ 09:06 AM

Depending on how you use your email, you can receive anywhere from ten to over a hundred emails a day. For some people the task of shifting through piles of countless emails is a daunting one. Spam from various sources clutter an inbox and make a user feel lost as they search for a specific message. Fortunately there are methods available for mitigating the endless stream of daily emails which march into your inbox.

Creating folders in your inbox is a good way to get started on organizing your emails. How you setup the folders depends on your needs. Some of the more common uses of multiple folders are either for VIPs in your contact lists or companies which you expect to communicate with on a regular basis. If you work on complex projects, or juggle several at once, it may be a good idea to create a folder dedicated to storing communications specifically concerning them. Making these folders to file away messages will help reduce the hodgepodge of emails squatting in your inbox; and if you really want to go gung-ho about folders, try creating folders within folders for further organization—a term I now like to call ‘Folderception’! But, folders are not the only way to assist you in keeping your inbox clear.

Sometimes you need a helping hand. All that click-and-dragging motion can produce undesired strain and eat up precious time from your day. Creating rules to direct the flow of messages like a traffic cop helps clear the congestion that you’re used to seeing every time your inbox is sprung open. Rules are a flexible agent that diverts messages from an inbox into pre-specified locations. Do you have annoying alerts that are sent out which don’t really concern you; or, how about the influx of emails that Amazon sends you just because you were doing some shopping online recently? Those pesky emails stack up quickly, sometimes faster than the human hand can command a mouse. This is where creating rules is greatly beneficial for your carpal tunnel.

Rule creation is often dependent on your email client and mail server. There are primarily two types of rules for the average user: client and server side rules. A rule running on a client will only act if that client is currently running, wherein a rule running on a server will act before a message hits the inbox in an email client—regardless of it running or not. Setting up a simple rule that diverts those low priority emails from your inbox to a specified folder is a great way to begin your journey towards organization. If you’re coordinating with Johnny Appleseed on that Fuji campaign, it’s a good idea to have a rule setup to send his messages to a Fuji folder you created. Once the rule is setup, you never have to worry about sifting through the labyrinth of your inbox to find it. Just look in that Fuji folder and catch up on the latest developments.

Rules and folders aren’t the only tools at your disposal though. The search feature is the most powerful tool in your arsenal to quickly grab an elusive email. If you aren’t able to find the message about that building project Mr. Bunyan swears he sent you, try searching for “Bunyan” and see what it brings up. Usually a search is confined to the folder you’re currently viewing, especially for Outlook. You may have to broaden the search to all of your folders if it doesn’t show up.

Once you’ve ascertained these basic principles of email management, you are prepared to fight back the hoard of messages that constantly invades your inbox. The job is an intimidating feat to accomplish, especially if your inbox is flooded with stagnant messages. You may need to dedicate some time to set aside for the task; but, once you’ve cleaned up your inbox you will be rewarded with that great sense of accomplishment—and a clean inbox to boot!