Tip #5 of 8: File your e-mails using the same folder structure as you do for your paper files

By: standss , Jun 26th, 2014

Welcome back folks to yet another week of email management tips.

I had several readers emailing me and asking why the next tip was not posted and when it would be available.

First of all I would like to apologise for the delay in posting this week’s tip… I had intentionally delayed the post for several reasons:

  1. I had mentioned in my first post that I will be posting the tips in the order that I feel would give you a simple and efficient email management system. Several readers wrote back to me saying they were busy and were unable to read the old tips… so I thought to give them a bit of time to catch up.
  2. I wanted to make sure that everybody had enough time to setup the multiple Outlook Data files structure discussed last week.
  3. Lastly… I wanted to know if readers were following the post or not. Based on the number of emails I received as a result of the delay… readers are definitely interested and finding this tips useful… Thank you all for that.

So… without any further delay let’s get straight into this week’s tip.

I have seen clients with thousands of e-mails in the Inbox and Sent Items folders. I have even seen clients using their Deleted Items folder to store old e-mails.

Do you use your trash can to file your important papers? 

Many of our clients file paper copies of their e-mails because they don’t have a system for filing electronic copies. Even if you file paper copies of your e-mails, having an email filing system will make it significantly faster and easier to locate correspondence.

How should you file your e-mails?

The same way you file paper documents – create a separate folder inside Outlook for each project and then file all e-mails for the project into the folder.

If you don’t know how to create folders inside Outlook, here’s how:

  • In Outlook 2013/2013, click on the Folder tab > New Folder
    In Outlook 2007/2003, click File > New > Folder to display the Create New Folder screen.


  • Enter a Name for your folder.
  • Select Mail & Post Items in the Folder Contains list.
  • Use the list displayed under “Select where to place the folder” to choose the folder’s location.
  • Click OK. The folder will be created as a subfolder of the location you selected in the previous step

You should use the new PST file created in the previous Tip to file your e-mails. This will ensure that the main PST file that Outlook uses stays small and fast.

We recommend the following folder structure. Create two folders in your Projects PST file called:

Active Projects
Completed Projects

(You can have other top level folders for other important areas in your life called Personal, etc)

Under the Active Projects folder create separate folders for each active project that you are working on. Whenever you receive or send an e-mail that you want to keep, move it to its appropriate project folder.

Name the folders anyway you like. The three common ways are:

  • Have a separate folder for each client
  • Have a separate folder for each project
  • Have a separate folder for each client and then have folders under it for each project for that particular client.

We use project based filing (and not client based filing at our office). However we name our folders in a way that makes it very easy to know both the project and client. Our folder naming convention is:


Using the above naming convention, your folders will look something like this:


Note that in the list, the user is working on two projects for John Smith.

This structure works well because:

  1. When you open the Projects folder, you get to see a list of all current projects in one place.
  2. Multiple Projects for a client are shown right next to each other because of the way the folders are named.
  3. It is easy to archive old projects – When a project is completed simply drag its folder from the Active Projects folder to the Completed Projects folder. You don’t need to then find the client folder first.

Time to join the conversation – what do you think?

I hope that you find the tip today useful… try to implement this simple email filing structure and you will see how easy it becomes to file, find and archive e-mails later.

Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below. Feel free to share your own experience and the filing system that you use to keep your inbox clean and organized with our readers.

If you have not subscribed to our blog yet, JOIN US today so we can notify you when we post the tips on our blog.


Here are links to the earlier tips we have discussed so far in case you missed out:

Tip #1 of 8: Turn Off Auto-Archiving in Outlook
You should archive e-mails as projects are completed. Don’t disorganize yourself by archiving based on dates.

Tip #2 of 8: Think carefully before using Outlook Rules
Rules can cause you to miss taking action on certain e-mails and also filing them into incorrect folders.

Tip #3 of 8: Find out where your Outlook data file is and backup regularly
How can you be sure that your Outlook data is being backed up if you don’t know where it is?

Tip #4 of 8: Split your Outlook data into more than one file
This technique will stop your e-mail file from getting bloated, slow and eventually corrupting itself and dying.

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