Managing your e-mail inbox

Old 2 Comments on Managing your e-mail inbox 42

Those of you who have been following my posts here on know that I’m a technologist. I own a company that provides 3rd party IT support services to clients. I manage staff, and I manage my company’s relations with its clients. All in all, you can guess that I’m a pretty busy guy. Along with that comes, as one could also guess, a lot of e-mails.

In all seriousness, I get about 75 e-mails a day that I actually need to read and respond to / action upon. That’s not counting the ‘semi-spam’ from vendors, the automated notices from the bank, shipping notifications on orders, etc. Many people would therefore assume that I have a pretty organized e-mail account, with lots of folders in my inbox for easy navigation. Not exactly.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I used to work in the telecommunications industry. I actually worked for a cellular carrier, where I handled multiple billing systems (among many other things). I used to get a lot of e-mail there. Sometimes upwards of 200 e-mails a day, mostly from internal staff needing support. Back then, I had a very organized e-mail inbox. I had probably 30 to 40 different folders, all for different topics, and I was religious about moving messages out of my inbox and into those folders very regularly (usually right after I dealt with the e-mail). And to be honest, I wasted a lot of time doing that. If I kept track of all the time I spent moving around e-mails and “filing” them, it probably added up to a few hours every week. That might sound far-fetched, but if you think about it, it takes a few seconds to decide where to put the e-mail and to actually move it. Take 200 e-mails a day, 5 seconds for each e-mail to file it, that’s 1000 seconds a day, 7000 second in 7 days, which is about 116 minutes, or 2 hours every week spent simply organizing and filing your e-mail inbox.

Now, one of the real questions you need to ask yourself is: Why are you filing e-mails into folders ? Why are you trying to organize your e-mails ? Most people will say it’s because they can find things easier later on when they need to refer back to an old e-mail. There’s even an initiative called ‘Inbox Zero’ that promotes having no messages just sitting in an inbox.

My opinion and simply my opinion, I don’t know what the fuss is all about. Why do we need to ‘organize’ our inbox ? Before you jump on me and call me an idiot and a moron, play devil’s advocate with me for a minute. Most e-mail clients (Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird, Google Gmail, Yahoo Mail, various web-based clients, etc.) have pretty advanced search features these days. I have tens of thousands of e-mails in my inbox, and if I use my search option, I can find anything I’m looking for based on keywords, sender, recipient, etc. The odd time I need to search for an older e-mail (which is maybe once or twice a week), it only takes me a few seconds to plug in my parameters and hit ‘search’. I would argue that my method actually takes less time than organizing my e-mails and creating an ‘Inbox Zero’ scenario. Because even if I sort all of my e-mails into folders and such, I still have to go searching through those folders to find the one particular e-mail I’m looking for. In some cases, depending how old the e-mail is, I’d even be using the search option!

So really, how much time are you actually going to save by going an ‘Inbox Zero’ route ? I would argue not much, if any at all. For me, I don’t bother filing anything in any custom folders, and I have never lost an e-mail or spent hours searching for one. I’m an advocate of what I will call ‘Inbox One’.


Martin Lehner

Martin Lehner is an technology professional working for an IT services firm in Whitehorse, Yukon (Canada). He has been working in the technology field for over a decade. With a degree in Business Admin and numerous industry certifications, Martin leads a team of IT professionals that provide third party support for clients. Originally starting a company to offer web development services, Martin quickly realized that clients wanted the entire spectrum of technology services. When Martin is not at work (which is not often, since his company offers 24/7 support), he is busy at home spending time with his family.

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  1. Ivan Ahmed July 10, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    Nice post! You just convinced me to not do what you wasted hours on.

    • Martin Lehner July 10, 2014 at 5:31 pm

      Glad to hear my posts are useful to others 🙂

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