My email system

Several people, over time, have asked about my email system so I thought I’d share it.  Following the principles of GTD I process my email as quickly as possible and either act on it, delete it, or defer it for a later time (making sure the next action gets on my task list.) I believe the key is to pre-allocate time to check email, and stick to only processing the email and knocking out the quick responses…don’t spend time trying to get everything done at once as it will only slow you down.

Email_folders.jpg Here’s my folder structure. Mailbox (yeah, large because I just got back from training 😉 I try to clean it out everyday, religiously and usually succeed!

@action is any email that I want to take an action on, whether it’s a long response, something I have to investigate, etc. This is cleaned out as I move through my task list.

Archive is any email I want to keep for whatever reason. I clean this out once a quarter. I delete anything older then 6 months as anything I feel would be something to keep longer is saved somewhere else, outside of email.

Finally, read later is anything, that does not have an action required, which I want to read at a later time.

How do I find stuff…this amazing thing called “search.” Instead of trying to sort through folders find stuff, use the search function!  Guarantee that once you master the search feature you will find your stuff faster, with less grief.  Why waste time sorting???

These basic steps have cut my email time to less then an hour a day, and kept my email box to less then 300mb on average. Email runs faster and I don’t have this constant urge to tidy it up all the time.

Check out Merlin Mann’s Inbox Zero series for more helpful hints.


5 Responses to “My email system”

  1. 1 Dave Huff November 8, 2008 at 1:23 am


    That’s a good system … I too try to keep my Inbox clean. However, the GTD thing has never really clicked with me. I tried it a few times and even downloaded a couple of GTD programs, but still don’t see what all the fuss is about. Maybe if I actually read the book, I would feel differently. 🙂


  2. 2 Dave Huff November 8, 2008 at 1:54 am

    That’s a good system. I too try to keep a clean Inbox. However, I have never really understood the GTD thing. I’ve even downloaded a few GTD programs, but it doesn’t really seem to fit my workstyle. Maybe if I actually read the book, I might appreciate it. 🙂

  3. 3 Dave Huff November 8, 2008 at 2:53 am

    Sorry about the double post … well, *triple* post now. I didn’t think it went through the first time. :-/

  4. 4 gregor1863 November 8, 2008 at 3:06 am

    LOL…no problem! Makes the stats look better 😉

    Admittedly GTD is not for everyone. You certainly have to roll with whatever works best for you!

    I have looked at numerous apps and went from the most complex, to the simplest. For me, it’s whatever gets the task/thought/concern out of my head and into a trusted system as soon as I can. If not, it will be quickly lost which is why GTD works for me.

  5. 5 gerald2.0 November 8, 2008 at 3:14 am

    Thanks for this post. It’s the practical application of the GTD. I like search, too. I could learn more about how to search but I usually muddle through.

    I’m looking forward to more posts, especially about GTD!

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My name is Greg Syferd. Here I share my thoughts, ideas, and random stuff I come across. For work, I am a Systems Manager at the Columbus Metropolitan Library. When unplugged I'm a husband/father, read books, and aspire to be a photographer.
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