Well, it's Information Super-Overload Monday. That means that GAL will be sharing tips on how to deal with the flood of information clogging up your email inbox, RSS feeds, and Twitter feeds. As many commentators have noted, too much information can be a major drag on your productivity.
Today, I want to talk a little bit about your email inbox. Many of you are using Microsoft Outlook or a similar client-side application. I receive dozens of emails each day, many of which are not from clients or prospective clients, so here's what I do to manage my email inbox.
First of all, I try and distinguish between those emails which are client related and all other information. Instead of trying to create a complex folder structure under my inbox, and then somehow remember to file everything in the appropriate folder, I try and keep everything client related in the root "Inbox" folder. The only time I create a subfolder under the Inbox is when I have regular email updates, newsletters, Google alerts, client invoices, Twitter updates, and a host of other automated documents and content. For each of those items, I create a folder, then create a "Rule and Alert" in Microsoft Outlook which will filter emails matching criteria related to sender, subject, and a host of other related data fields into the specific folders.
With regard to the emails which don't get filtered, I review each email in my Inbox and use the "flag" feature to identify those which need further action. All flagged emails can be seen in my "For Follow-Up" folder, which is a default in Microsoft Outlook. The key is to make sure to flag everything that you can't get to now and needs further action.
The last piece of the puzzle is a search tool which allows me to quickly identify and view emails based on a simple or complex search query. I used to use Copernic, but now use a product called X1 Professional Client Version 6.2.3. X1 indexes all my incoming emails and allows me to search them by the sender, date, subject, attachments, and a variety of other data fields. So if I want to see all emails to and from a particular client, I can easily pull that up. I don't use Outlook to try and organize my client email. Instead, I rely on X1 to find whatever I need related to any particular client or matter in less than a second.
Because of the volume of spam I had coming in on some of my older emails, we use AppRiver to filter out all spam hitting our email services. I have over 200 spam emails a day filter from my various email addresses. This keeps my Outlook Inbox relatively clean.
In short, email is a great form of communcation but creates a lot of risk. What if you lose an important email? What if you need to see all emails from a particular client while you have them on the phone in a very short period? You need a system which will allow you to identify emails which require further action and quickly any and all emails you need related particular client or matter. By using the flagging feature in Outlook and a powerful desktop search tool such as X1, you can easily manage your email inbox and drastically reduce the risk that anything will fall through the cracks. Remember, email is just another form of data. You need to find a way to manage it. The days of putting data into folders is gone. The day of pre-indexed search is upon us. Don't be caught in the information overload!