View Full Version : Organizing Reference Emails -> same as paper?
12-30-2003, 12:00 PM
I'm about to begin implementing the GTD methodology in my life and have a question about what to do with emails that I want to archive / keep for reference. For the past few years I've created different folders for emails from / related to colleagues and projects. Now that I'll be implementing an A-Z paper filing system, should I set up a similar one in Outlook? That is... create a Reference folder with 26 sub-folders named A-Z and then create folders under each letter for a person's name or a particular project.
I'm far from an Outlook guru and am thinking that perhaps I'm totally off track here. How do others organize reference emails.
12-30-2003, 12:38 PM
I personally tend to organize my reference material on Outlook by Project. Each project I manage has a particular job number; so I create a "digital folder" titled with that Job Number. This also keeps all the projects in order, since the Job Numbers are opened up chronolgically.
These project folders are all filed in larger folders divided by Client's line of business; which are inside a larger folder, named by Client.
For departments and people who report into me - I have them set up as their own folders. Individuals have folders starting with "@ ALex" for instance. Documents and Reports are filed in folders titled by Department - then by the type of report that it is.
if I've been obtuse, or you need more info - please feel free to write.
12-30-2003, 12:41 PM
great question... i'm interested to see the responses. i started the GTD system about two weeks ago, and love it! the Outlook contacts-as-projects has worked well for me, but handling e-mail has been challenging, though i would rather not purchase the plug-in...
i simply have a few reference folders that i dump most of my "save-worthy" email into. then i rely on searches if i need to find reference. sometimes i also paste the email into my project if i think it will be very important to reference later.
attaching an email to a project can be especially confusing. sometimes i will simply link the email to a project, so that it will show up when i go to the "activities" section of the project. other times i copy the email object into the project... :roll: a third option i sometimes use is to copy the text of the email and paste it into the project.
i'm interested to hear other approaches!
Now that I'll be implementing an A-Z paper filing system, should I set up a similar one in Outlook? That is... create a Reference folder with 26 sub-folders named A-Z and then create folders under each letter for a person's name or a particular project.
12-30-2003, 04:02 PM
Here is what I do,
I two root folders - 'Work', and 'Personal'
Within these I have functional areas such as
'Work'- 'Sales and Marketing'
Within these I have folders for individuals such as
'Work'- 'Clients'- 'Client X'
'Work'- 'Clients'- 'Client Y'
'Work'- 'Sales and Marketing'- 'Joe Bloggs'
So basically, I have main directories that are functionally based, then I have folders for relevant individuals within those folders. I ALWAYS (with one exception ;-)) file an email into its senders folder. If I receive an email from someone that I don't want a folder for (eg. maybe I only got one email from them, ever), I just put their email into the Functional folder.
I also use 'Categories' such as 'Stats Q4 03' to enable quick searches on certain topics.
This system helps me keep my email neat and tiday and allows me to find emails quickly.
Hope this makes sense...
12-31-2003, 01:17 PM
I drag the email to the memo/notes section of Outlook to create a new note and add any keywords like 'project xyz' or change the title. I snip unnecessary text and tag it with the appropriate category as well. The note is then synced to my palm where I can use the 'find' app to find the data quickly.
12-31-2003, 04:19 PM
I am ramping on GTD so I can't comment that successfully about how to weave outlook into GTD. I am evaluating the Trial GTD outlook add-in now. I am going to wait for the Outlook 2003 version before I make the purchase.
Regardign storing Outlook "save-worthy" e-mails, I have learned over the years to try and keep sub folders to a minimum. Since Outlook has an excelent sort capabilities (sort by sender, subject, or date) I have found it best to keep one big bucket per year. This way, if I am lookign for a recent e-mail I click the date heading and the e-mails are instantly sorted by date. If I am looking for an e-mail from a person, I click the sender heading and then type the letter of the senders name and then outlook automatically brings me to that alphabetical section. If I am looking for a thread, I sort by subject. Thi shas worked well for me over the past 4 years. I get a TON of e-mail so this system has been battle field tested with large volumes of e-mail.
On another note, you may want to also check out www.x1.com. I trialed the 2.0 program and it was a lightning fast search of outlook e-mails, attachments, and all the files on your hard drive. I didn't make the purchase because it was $100 and it froze on me twice when I was searching for a file. I am persnickety about software. If I am going to pay $100 for software, I want it to be rock solid. I just checked the site and they now have a 3.0 version and the release notes say they have fixed a bunch of stuff?
I hope this helps
01-01-2004, 06:39 PM
The best tool I've found for organizing outlook emails is Nelson Email organizer www.nelsonemailorganizer.com searches are lightning fast and it automatically files every message by date reference, person and by attachment type. Well worth the money.
It won't sync to the palm --but you can always use the method suggested above and create outlook notes from email that you must have available on your palm.
I also use the outlook add-in sold on this site--there's no conflict between the two .
A lot of people swear by Zoot also. www.zootsoftware.com
01-02-2004, 06:35 AM
I really think you were right on the money with your idea to create a a digital system that parallels your paper one. I would make one suggestion, however. Instead of saving the e-mails in Outlook, set up the system in your My Documents folder. When you want to save an e-mail, choose "Save As" from the file menu, choose a title consistent with your system, and navigate to the correct A-Z folder. (You may find you can get away with not having 26 folders, since you can sort by title automatically. I have one folder called "Memos & Letters" where I save e-mails othershave sent me which are of lasting value.)
I make this suggestion for a couple of reasons:
1. I have read quite a few warnings about not letting your Outlook pst file get too big--around 100MB seems to be where people experience trouble. If you save the e-mails in Outlook, it adds to the size of that file.
2. The way I have things set up, memos or letters I write, e-mails from others I want to save, and e-mail attachments from others that I want to save all go into the same folder. That simply cuts down on the number of places to look for things.
Hope this helps.
01-03-2004, 03:22 AM
Good Morning All :)
I listed a VERY ROUGH outline of the system that I use at work above.
I agree that paper & digital should be as much like twins as possible.....
One of the things that I left out is - in order to manage the size of my PST -once I have something that I know is a completed project - or total reference, I go into Outlook and "print it" as a PDF. I'm given the option of printing each e-mail as a separate page - which is what I usually do. I then save the PDF in a folder outside of Outlook as Frank suggested.
02-21-2004, 03:16 AM
I just tumble onto this forum today and so far I must thank CosmoGTD, Bill Kratz and many others who have illuminated this time management concept.
Unfortunately, my outlook is on a company pc and they are very strict about adding additional software. But I think using the folder concepts @ folders are permitted.
By the way, if you have to manage lots of clients and their respective files and you want to go paperless, I would recommend the use of Paperport and either Brother MFC or Visioneer Scanners. I use the folder system like the old paper one. Every client files are stored under a folder on my pc, labeled "Last , first". I scan old applications, emails, letters , photos or digital images into these folders and shred the paper. If they move, I just simply move their folders into a folder labeled "CONTACTS - MOVED".
We set up an inexpensive network in my office with just XP. Paperport will allow my staff to access and work on these client folders without leaving her desk to file and search for documents.
So I guess my Paperport system is rather a STATIC one, a picture of their records at certain time, whereas my OUTLOOK system is a dynamic one - changes of address, notes on conversation.
If you are interested check out the paperport forum on yahoo.
Again thanks all for sharing. Have a good year.
02-23-2004, 11:03 AM
Pkdolphin.... persnickety is a great word. I am stealing it and using it in my everyday life!!!!!!!!!
02-23-2004, 01:48 PM
I agree with the poster above -- I rely on the search capabilities of my mail client, and simply keep one "bucket" of reference email per year. (It gets to be a pretty big bucket, but I don't reference it directly -- I just search it.)