In my last post “Will Documenting Something Now Save You Time Later?, I confessed to being a documentation junkie. Since I received more than a few comments that made me believe it was helpful, I started thinking about other ways this obsession with process, procedure and documenting might be of benefit to others. One of my blog readers asked about tips on organizing their computer files and someone that I often exchange emails with mentioned being overwhelmed by emails generated from a LinkedIn group. Both of these conversations prompted me to share a couple of ideas that work for me.
Tips on Organizing Your Computer Hard Drive
First off, I think of my computer as one big filing cabinet organized with “green hanging” folders and then “manila folders” inside each hanging folder.
As an example, I had a new client who hired me to move their blog from WordPress.com and incorporate it into their website. I began by creating a new folder (my “green-hanging” folder) for them. I created all of our correspondence and my work files loose in that folder. I also created 4 sub-folders (my “manila” folders) for: (1) their original website, (2) their new/changed website, (3) pictures & graphics and (4) a folder for WordPress.
Since the name of this new folder is my client’s name, there’s no risk of my not knowing what the content is or not being able to find the folder. If this new folder had been for new software that I was learning, that would have been the name. Occasionally, I will create a folder that’s a little more obscure and might need something to jog my memory (a download for a plugin or extension maybe). In that case, I would give it an entry in my Excel spreadsheet. (The one I discussed in my previous post on documentation.)
Tips on Organizing Your Email
If you’re like me and participate in online groups and subscribe to comment threads, your inbox can get pretty overwhelming very quickly. I start my mornings speed-reading through my emails over a cup of coffee. If there’s anything urgent, I’ll address it as soon as I’m coherent/awake enough to make sense and be productive. If it’s spam, I delete it and if it’s email that I no longer need/want, I unsubscribe from it.
Basically, I treat my email inbox the same way that I treat filing on my computer. I use the same “green-hanging” and “manila” folder structure to organize my inbox. I do not use rules to automatically direct emails to these folders because when I’ve tried that in the past it didn’t work for me. Emails would get forgotten and I wouldn’t address them. All of my email goes into my inbox and I sort it out from there.
Tips on Managing Your Email
- Delete any items that you recognize as spam.
- Respond to emails that are urgent or can be dealt with quickly.
- As you preview/read your emails, take one of the following actions:
a. Delete it.
b. Reply/forward it. Then delete it.
c. Reply/forward it. Then move it to the appropriate folder.
c. Read it & move it to the appropriate folder without replying.
d. Leave it in your inbox until you act on it. If it’s time-sensitive, flag it with a due date.
Note: When I first posted this article, I talked about using the preview pane in Outlook. Thanks to Susan Oakes for pointing out that this can potentially infect your computer with a virus. Personally, I do use the preview pane but I am diligent about keeping my operating system and my anti-virus programs up-to-date. Having said that, using the preview pane can be risky. Therefore I’m not advising anyone to use it. (Gee . . . I hope I don’t sound like a lawyer here. – No offense to lawyers intended.)
Hope this gives you some ideas on organizing your files and emails. What works for me may or may not work for you. Each of us has our own style. How do you manage your computer files and emails? I’d love to hear from you.