In this post I look at the two main ways of organizing emails… Folders and Tags. We will look at the advantages and disadvantages of each one so that you can decide which one works best for you.
We will also look at a couple of Outlook addins that you can use for each style of email management if you don’t want to do it all manually.
But before that…
What do we need from any email organization system?
Irrespective of the way we organize our emails, this is what we need.
1. We want to easily see which emails still need our attention.
2. We want to file away emails that we have finished with but need to refer to in the future. Ideally sent and received emails for a project/client etc should be in the same place so you can see them all together.
3. We want to quickly find and retrieve any one filed email or a group of filed emails.
4. We want to do all this without wasting our day shuffling emails around.
Organizing emails either in Folders or with Tags can meet 3 of the above requirements and you can use the addins that we mention below to do it to meet the last requirement.
Let’s look at each of the two methods now…
Method #1: Emails and Folders
The first way of filing that most people use in Outlook is Folders i.e. create folders inside Outlook and then file emails into these folders.
This method works well for most users because most of us are used to folders in the physical world. As a result, this paradigm is easy to understand.
Furthermore, Outlook was designed with folders in mind. It is easy to create folders quickly inside Outlook and then drag and drop emails into them.
Tip: If you have a system of paper folders in the physical world, we recommend that you create a similar folder structure inside Outlook. Having the same structure in both places makes is extremely easy to find emails when you need them.
The problem with folders is that is can be time consuming and error prone to move emails. It is easy to accidentally drop an email into the wrong folder… or to forget to file emails from the Sent Emails folder… and it can be cumbersome to locate folders once you have a lot of folders. Unless…
Automating Folder Filing in Outlook
QuickFile adds a few buttons inside Outlook for you. It recommends folders based on your previous actions. You will be able to file up to 90% of your emails to the correct folder at the click of one button.
It also prompts you (with a recommendation) when you send out emails so that sent emails are automatically filed in the correct folder.
There is a handy Search feature so that you can quickly locate any folder simply by typing a few characters from the folder name.
Users have reported to getting back up to 2 hours each week that was previously lost to email.
Method #2: Tagging Emails
Tagging basically involved tagging (or marking) an email with one or more keywords. The tagged emails can then be moved out of the Inbox to an archive folder.
You can think of tags as being similar to folders… without actually needing to create folders… or you can think of tags as keywords.
You may already have used tags to organize photos (or to organize emails inside Gmail where tags are called labels).
The great thing is that each email can have multiple tags (no more worrying about which folder the email goes into)… and you can easily see all emails with a particular tag when you need to.
Outlook’s built-in search can then be used to find the emails that you have tagged with specific keywords.
The problem with Tags however is that there is no built-in way to do it easily inside Outlook. It is difficult to tag emails and difficult to find them easily later… until now.
Automating Tagging in Outlook
Email Tags for Outlook is a powerful addin that works inside Outlook. It saves time and ensures that emails are tagged correctly by recommending tags (A list of tags is also automatically maintained).
It can automatically move your tagged emails out of your Inbox to an archive folder so that your Inbox only shows you what you still need to work on.
Email Tags can also tag outgoing emails so that they are automatically organized with your received emails.
Best of all it has a powerful search feature to locate your tagged emails later.
How to choose what works best for YOU!
It depends on that nature of your work!
If you are already used to Tags then tagging emails should work well for you, particularly when used with Email Tags for Outlook.
Other people may find Folders easier because it mirrors the concept of folders in the paper world that we have all grown used to.
In our experience Folders work particularly well for people who work with well-defined projects.
We already have thousands of Lawyers, Engineers, Architects etc. using QuickFile for Outlook to save hours of billable time each month that was previously lost managing Outlook email folders.
We hope this post helps you make the right choice to have a more organized and productive Outlook.