Licensee BadgeTraining Badge
Submitted by Jim Clark on


I've set up rules to put emails from my peers, directs and boss into separate email folders so I can read through with some sense of priority.

The problem I've run into is that when a particular topic has many replies from these various groups I have go through all these folders to see if someone else replied. Otherwise, I respond only to find out someone else already responded and my reply didn't take that into account, blah, blah, blah.

What have others done to mitigate this problem? I don't like having to search though my folders for all related email on a particular subject.

Any suggestions?


tlhausmann's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge

[quote="Jim Clark"] The problem I've run into is that when a particular topic has many replies from these various groups I have go through all these folders to see if someone else replied. [...] Any suggestions?

Hi Jim,

I use X1

In addition to indexing your email, X1 also indexes documents. Boolean and other search parameters help me quickly find email messages and documents. When I combine scanned PDF documents with need for paper filing is nearly eliminated.

HMac's picture

Jim -
Respectfully, I think you've gotten caught in your own mousetrap. My experience is similar: every time I use an Outlook feature to "improve" its use, I add a layer of complexity and give myself something else to have to remember to do.

Consider a back-to-basics approach like [i]Getting Things Done. [/i]Simplify.


tlhausmann's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge

I also use Xobni ... but not as much as X1

I tend to save messages (too many?) and can recall threads, decisions, or background information pretty quickly on my laptop.

US41's picture

Don't use folders. Use colored flags:

Red = your boss and chain of command above you
Blue = your peers
Green = your directs

The only folders you need are yearly archives for each year. Use Outlook's built in powerful and speedy searching to find things you need based on the content. Edit subject lines of emails that are cryptic to make them findable later.

You really don't need a folder system other than that. I have done this for quite some time now. I receive 400+ emails a day. I send 100+ per day. I work in a company that lives in email. Everyone we hire goes into shock over the volume. You can see your empty inbox fill up in five minutes while you stare at it.

AManagerTool's picture

I so wish we used outlook here. Groupwise Booooooooo! :(

HMac's picture

[quote="US41"]Use Outlook's built in powerful and speedy searching to find things you need based on the content.[/quote]

I'm not on Outlook at the moment - so maybe this has improved. But I always thought the knock on Outlook - and Windows in general - was the slow and primitive capability it had for searching its own contents - thus the need for tools like Google Desktop or xobni.

41: sounds like you're very happy with Outlook's ability to search and find content?


US41's picture

It is good enough for the rare searches I have to do.

I've never heard of an organization that generates email more than mine does. Lots of people say "I get 800 emails a day", but you install Xobni and see they are really getting 40 or 50 a day.

I handle LITERALLY 400+ per day. I have 100+ rules filtering those messages. I have four folders:

Archive 2006
Archive 2007
Archive 2008

That's it. 2005 and earlier are archived off. I could get them if I had to. I have no desire to do so and it would take a subpoena before I bothered.

When a message has a cryptic subject, I type over it before I hit reply and put in the project ID number or some keywords I can search by.

Here's the most important thing, though. I do not overestimate Outlook's ability to help me out of trouble. Lots of people save all of their email planning to use it as CYA when confronted with something they are blamed for to defer blame back to the person who's email they stored... or to prove they notified someone.

Hint hint, high C's and S's - no high D manager cares about your email, and when you forward email to your boss to show that you sent notification to someone or that someone else promised something... it is only rarely helpful. Just about everyone I know who has attempted to use saved email as cover has been shot so full of holes by enraged management that their plane crashes into the sea.

Instead of trying CYA email, I recommend the following:

* Apologize. Just say you are sorry, MT style, and ask them what you need to do in order to do better in the future.
* Tell them you thought you notified, but perhaps you did not do a good enough job. Ask for suggestions to improve communication. Some people don't want to read your email. Sometimes your notifications are attachments (egad you fool!!!)
* If someone is attacking you for something that they directed you to do, do not throw the email back in their face unless you think you are headed to HR. Just say, "I'm sorry - I thought you wanted me to do this. I was trying to help you. What do you want me to do for you? I will do whatever I can to help out."

The only time I have seen email almost (ALMOST!) used as cover effectively was when an outside vendor accepted requirements and approved them and then complained they had not seen them. We pulled out the approval and threw it in their faces and showed it to management. Here's what happened:

* The Vendor said, "You sent it to the wrong guy. He isn't approved to approve."
* Our management said, "Why are you throwing email in a vendor's face? Just work with them to fix. Path forward, not history!"

In short, we were still spanked.

My gigantic email .pst files are 5 gigs or larger in size. This year's is approaching 6 gigs, and I delete most stuff such as thank you messages or unrelated notifications I don't need later.

They have never proved very useful. The few times they have, I think I could have gotten by without them just by being friendly, listening, ensuring understanding, and treating people like customers.

Maybe it would be helpful if you were being harassed in email or someone gave you illegal direction in writing and you needed to prove your case in court. However, for most people, massive email archives are just baggage.

IanPratt's picture

Hey, the only thing I have seen that I like is a manager who auto deletes all emails that they are a CC on.

I like the one folder rule, read action archive.

If you work for a company that receives a lot of email you can change that, Just use the phone and talk to people, it will rub off slowly.

US41's picture

[quote="IanPratt"]If you work for a company that receives a lot of email you can change that, Just use the phone and talk to people, it will rub off slowly.[/quote]

I have heard that before. It is not true for my organization.

I cannot do with a phone what I do with email. The two technologies are not comparable. In the 15 minutes it takes me to make a phone call, I can read and respond to 30-60 email messages which as many as 3000 people see simultaneously. When I call people, I usually get voice mail, because most employees are booked in conference calls pretty solid from 8am to 5pm for as much as a week out.

You cannot do that with a phone. Yes, many people around the world work in companies getting maybe 40 messages a day and sit at their desks fussing over email when they should pick up a phone. However, those of us in extremely efficient, fast-paced IT organizations within technology companies laugh at the idea that the phone can be used to notify 3000 people of a major event or summon an entire department to yet another emergency production support conference line that starts 5 minutes from now.

Successful use of the phone requires others to be available to answer. They are not. No one responds to voice mail. By the time anyone gets a voice mail, there have been 100 more emails on the topic flung about and the entire situation has changed.

Email is how _everything_ gets done. Email is where approvals are done. Email is how documents are shared. Email is how all communication happens. Hold a meeting - the notes go out in email, and there are 40 follow-up corrections to the notes in email. System outages - email. Project issues - email. Deployments - email. Company announcements - email. Emailed company newsletters from all 13 levels of command above me - each one with his own departmental notification going to thousands of people in email. I have my own too. More email.

We do our one on ones in person and on the phone. But we solve big disagreements and do planning on conference calls. Everything else - and I mean everything else - is email. It has to be. All other options are closed off...

... except for one thing. Instant messaging. The person who invented that - I hope they burn for it. It has to be the only thing that could possibly be worse than email other than telepathy.

I hope to be retired before we invent a chip that allows telepathy. The idea that my coworkers will have issues so urgent that they literally rip them from my mind against my will seems possible given the way we use email.

refbruce's picture

In partial reply to HMac's question, Outlook searching is slow, but Outlook 2007 is much better. Nevertheless, I use Copernic Desktop Search to search e-mails, files, and attachments.

I'm closer to US41, except that I need to find e-mails a few times a day as a reference to answer a question. However, it's faster for me to simply dump them into a few large folders, rather than spend time dealing with a lot of filing. What I do use rules for is to a) control what goes down to my blackberry, b) to move some autogenerated e-mails off to folders that occasinally get flushed, and c) move a few high priority items into a folder where they can be processed first. I also have a rule that autoforwards a few status messages out to my entire group.