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
- Removed all rules, toolbars, folders
- Created 3 simple folders Archive, Followup, Automated
- Created one big fat rule to move all emails from automated DLs (e.g. checkin notices) to the automated folder
- 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
- Effectively all emails from human beings land up in my inbox.
- When an email comes I read it. After that I have only 3 options
- Delete it
- Hit Alt+R to archive it (this launches a macro to mark the email as read and moves it to the archive folder)
- 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.