Friday, May 02, 2008

Struggling with email overload

It literally rains email at Microsoft (if you've been to Seattle/Redmond you know why :) )

I've always struggled to keep up with the email in Microsoft. When I joined I was stunned with the downpour. The number of email I got on the first day was more than what I got in a month in Adobe. The situation worsened when I went through team transition last month because for some time I had to listen to the email threads of both teams DLs (distribution list).

I have tried using various techniques to cope before. This included complex labyrinth of folders (I've met folks with 9 level deep folder nesting), rules, search folders, you name it!!

All of them failed until I saw this post from John Lam. This talks about reverse pimping outlook. Even though I didn't go to the extreme he did, I basically got the following done

  1. Removed all rules, toolbars, folders
  2. Created 3 simple folders Archive, Followup, Automated
  3. Created one big fat rule to move all emails from automated DLs (e.g. checkin notices) to the automated folder
  4. Copy pasted macros from Johns blog and setup toolbar buttons to launch these macros and also associated short-cuts with these. Go to John's blog for the macros or download from here
  5. Effectively all emails from human beings land up in my inbox.
  6. When an email comes I read it. After that I have only 3 options
    1. Delete it
    2. Hit Alt+R to archive it (this launches a macro to mark the email as read and moves it to the archive folder)
    3. Hit Alt+U for follow up (this launches a macro to flag the email to be replied by EOD and moves it to the follow up folder)

This ensures that I read all emails that come to me, I never miss an email now. I go on hitting zero emails in the inbox couple of time a day. Couple of times a day I scan the followup folder to ensure that I have replied/taken-action on all emails in the follow-up folder.

Even though the process sounds complex it's working miraculously for me for the last two months. I can finally forget about email overload.

My outlook looks as shown below. It's more cluttered than John's version because I need to see upcoming meetings in the right pane.

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