The Holiday season is hot on our heels and whether you have a week-long cruise to the Bahamas, some one-on-one time with your extended family or even food-induced hibernation planned, your piling work emails aren’t going to take care of themselves. Before you start thinking that this is certainly the Nightmare Before Christmas, take a deep breath. While your inbox might be a mess, Jack Skellington isn’t hiding among your attachments reinventing your Christmas plans and an organized inbox can be achieved.
You might be thinking why now as “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” and other Christmas jingles are blasting on the radio, and the answer is simple. Leaving your inbox as is before you go on vacation is like the email version of Home Alone; your inbox is all by itself, extremely mischievous, and you’re likely to come home to hundreds of spilt emails and random misplaced spam all across your foyer. If you don’t want to pick up after a digital Macaulay Culkin when you come back to the office with your fresh Hawaiian tan, it might be a good idea to sort through your email before the New Year begins.
There are a lot of goals you can have. You can aim to bring the best holiday side-dish to the family potluck, you could try to watch all the ABC Family Christmas specials, or you can even refuse to wrap any of the many Christmas gifts you’re giving to your kids. Either way, when it comes to reorganizing your email, you have to have goals. You can’t just say, “I want to be organized” and call it a day. You have to think in terms of how you want it to be organized: by date? By project? By how complete it is? Once you have this down, then sticking to your system after your holiday will be much easier.
Making a Filing System
Now that you have your goal, you need to think about how to achieve it. Basically, what do you do with an email once you’re done with it?
To start off, you should create a series of folders based on your goals and put old emails in the appropriate month folder, project folder, or action folder. If you’ve never sorted your email out (or it’s been a while), place extremely old batches of emails in their own folders that are marked yearly or quarterly. This way you won’t turn into an overwhelmed Grinch as you waste hours of your time taking care of old files.
If you’re confident in your current system and have organized old emails, then start labeling your current emails (they should still be in your main inbox) through flagging or highlighting. Each color or flag should mean something based on what your folder system is, but I’d suggest highlighting emails by action (if you need to reply, pull up a specific file, or if they need to respond/be reminded) or priority.
Deleting Dated Emails
As you’ve began sorting through your emails, you’ve probably noticed a few emails you just don’t need to keep. This is where deleting comes in. While this might seem like an easy task as the holiday promotions and ads come rolling in, you’d be surprised how quickly you can turn into a hoarder.
For example, think of the folder stocked with dated emails from 2010. Will you need this information in the future, and does it have sensitive information? While you might be thinking that it’s just easier to save all your emails, remember your goals: a Christmas tan, a praise-worthy side dish and an organized inbox. You can’t stop now while you’re so close to a clean inbox! To create your deleting guidelines, consider how much inbox space you have (in megabytes) and your company’s record-keeping policy. While saving emails might seem like a safe bet in the possibility of future legal action, it’s important to also make sure you’re retaining these records legally and securely.
Whether it’s relaxing on a beach somewhere or enjoying the company of your extended family, you can now focus on some of your own personal Wintertime goals knowing that your inbox won’t be so stressful come January. As long as you consistently file your emails at the end of the day, your inbox will be squeaky clean and stress-free. Happy holidays.
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