Organizing Your Email

Keeping your email organized is imperative, especially in corporate or small business settings. When you use email for business purposes, you are essentially handling customer files. Because of the importance of this for even the smallest of businesses, those files should stay as organized as possible. You wouldn’t just lump all of your paper customer files into a corner would you? Most of us wouldn’t, so here are some ways to keep the email files (correspondence) organized as well.

If your business email inbox is currently cluttered with hundreds of old items, set aside some time to clear it out. This first clearance may take several hours, so you may want to delegate some weekend or evening time to tackle it.

Filing Methods

Before starting the actual filing of the items, you’ll need to brainstorm your organizational structure. If you do not have a solid contact management software program, I strongly suggest investing in one. My preference is GoldMine, and I’ll explain why further on in this section. For now, you simply need to decide how you work, and what filing system will work best for you personally. If you need help coming up with filing and organizational ideas, here are a few popular ones:

1. Customer Name Folders – Create email folders that are named the same as your customers. All email to or from a particular customer will be filed to that customer’s individual email folder.
2. Project Name Folders – If you work primarily with projects, you can create email folders that match past, existing or future project names. From there, you can file all email related to the project, regardless of who it is to or from, into the corresponding project folder.
3. Month and Year Folders – Create email folders that are named for each month and year. Then file all email sent or received in that month/year into the matching folder.
4. Print File Cabinet Mirror – Create email folders named to match your Print File Cabinet system. Then file email into the email folders in the same way that you file print papers into your hard copy system.

Once you have decided how you want to organize your email, set up the folders and then go through each and every item in your inbox. This is the part that may take hours so make sure you have set aside enough time to fully complete the job.

While you’re sorting your messages, you may find several items that have not yet been addressed but need to be. Try to address these before filing them, or make a note on your calendar or to-do list. Alternatively, if your email system has the capability, you can mark them for completion later. Be aware however: If you file the messages away you are not likely to address them later unless you have something scheduled that reminds you to. So, if you can, it is better to address them now and get them out of the way.

If your email program has the ability to link messages to contacts, I strongly suggest using this feature. This is the primary reason I use the GoldMine software. With GoldMine, I can keep a running history for each and every person I come into contact with. All email messages sent or received can be filed into the history right along with the appointments, phone calls, faxes, project notes and any other correspondence I have accumulated.

By utilizing contact management software that files email according to the person whom the email is from or to, you do not have to continuously search through various email folders when trying to find a specific item.

Ongoing Habits

Now, once you have spent the initial time needed to organize your inbox, it is fairly easy to keep it organized from that point forward. It may take a bit of effort to get into the habit in the first week or two, but usually the joy of having it all cleaned out helps to motivate you into keeping it cleaned.

About the author:

(C) 2002, Kathy Burns.

This article is an excerpt from Kathy’s Report: “Don’t Put Into Email Today What You Do Not Want to See on Headline News Tomorrow” – A Guide To Effective And Professional Email Communication. Read it free at

This article is provided courtesy of You may freely reprint this article on your website or in your newsletter provided this courtesy notice and the author name and URL remain intact.

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