Build Priority Folders
Episode #8 of the course Hacking your inbox for maximum productivity by Wil Schroter
In this chapter:
• Easily access the most important emails first with priority folders
• Build a response system based off importance—not time.
Email drains our time because we don’t process it properly. Quickly take a peek at your inbox. You back? Cool.
Note that there’s typically only one factor sorting everything: Time.
While this’ll help you figure out who’s emailing you at 3am and who emailed a second ago—it doesn’t explain what’s “important.”
Let’s have your inbox do the heavy lifting so you can focus on what is really important—not who hit “send” last.
Create Priority Folders
At Zirtual, we’ve created a tried and true system that’s helped many of our high-performing clients. What we do sounds simple, because it is. The trick is in the follow-through.
The first step is to get everything into a useful folder. This’ll help even the most email-obsessed person to stop viewing their email as a time-based list and as a “what should I focus on next?” list.
These are the folders we’ve found to be useful—but feel free to mix it up!
Go ahead and copy/paste our folder names. Note: punctuation marks placed in label heading ensure proper placement. We also assign each filter a color, so everything is easy to see at a glance.
ACTION: Create !TODAY! Folder
Your first folder will be the !TODAY! Folder. This is redundant—but this is where you’ll place emails that are urgent and need to be dealt with immediately, as well as things that need to be wrapped up by the end of the business day. To make it easy to separate the two, we’ll sort into sub-labels nested under the Primary folder.
ACTION: Create sub-label “Urgent” and “EOD” under the !TODAY! Folder
Next, filter email requests for coffee with Sting and to reschedule your one-on-one with Bono. You’ll respond to each of these sometime between now and later, so we’ll sort under a folder that holds everything that needs your reply.
ACTION: Create .Replay Folder
ACTION: Create sub-label “Now,” “Soon,” and “Later” under the .Replay Folder
Let’s fast forward a bit. Pretend you sent an email to Sting suggesting that you two grab coffee at The Mill on Divisadero. Rather than archiving after responding or letting it languish in one of your folders—reassign to a folder that shows the status of the email. No need to make any sub-labels, unless you wanna. Emails here are all in the same state of limbo.
ACTION: Create .Pending Other Person Folder
Lastly, there will always be things you need to review. They might not be urgent, but your eyeballs need to get on them. This could be anything like articles, subscription services, or emails that require no action—you just need to read them. Similar to the “Reply” folder, the timeframes vary. If something should be reviewed by EOD, you/your VA can move things from this folder to the “Today” folder.
ACTION: Create .Review Folder
ACTION: Create sub-label “Now,” “Soon,” and “Later” under the .Review Folder
We utilize these filters so the only thing our busiest clients spend their time looking at is neatly tucked away in the “Today” or “Review” folders. They’re free to ignore everything else, because their VA is handling it.
Note: Your mileage may vary with each of these folders. Maybe you don’t need the “Reply” folder because you don’t want to ever respond to anyone ever. (Ooo! Mysterious!) Maybe you need another folder to catch everything else in your inbox.
For example, if you’re working with a VA, create a folder for emails you’ve sent—or keep emails sent to you with the completed or in-progress tasks they’re working on.
BONUS ACTION: Create VA Tasks Folder
By sorting email into several specific folders, you’ll reframe how you approach your inbox, help you accomplish the critical things of the day, and save you time.
Stop looking at your inbox as a chronicle of who emailed you first or last; instead, implement organizational folders to enable you to focus on what needs to be done next.
“The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” by Marie Kondo
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