43 Folders’ post on managing that incredibly full email box by moving everything into a folder called DMZ and starting afresh got me thinking about how I manage dealing with a tonne of emails that come in.

My way of feeling like I’m keeping on top of my inbox(es) is simple: keep the number of emails in my inbox below 10. This usually means I have 9 emails in my inbox but that always feels manageable – the list is nice and short. Each day, I keep to this and it never grows out of control. When I go away for a while and my inbox has a tonne, I sort by the email subject which helps me deal more quickly with the pile.

I also have two subfolders for my inbox: one called “In progress” which has emails I need to quickly refer back to but don’t need to reply to (I try keeping this to below 20). The other is called “Comments” which filters in all my inbox emails which are comments on any of my blogs.

Once I’ve finished with emails I file them in folders based on date. Here’s what I have currently:

  • 2006
  • Sept-Dec 05
  • Jan-Aug 05
  • 2004
  • Before 2004

I’ll usually work in two month archives which get collapsed together over time as I don’t need to refer to them as often. So when it’s March, 2006 will become Jan-Feb 06 and I’ll start a new folder called Mar-Apr 06.

Important emails such as account login details I’ll label as important in Thunderbird so they stand out in colour when I open archive folders.

For quick searching of my old emails, I’ll use Google desktop or, if I know the rough date of the email, I’ll look first in that folder.