How I work: 5 Folders are Helping Email Productivity

I’ve long been a proponent of methodologies such as “getting things done” (GTD) and advocate for things such as approaches such as Covey’s 7 Habits. So modify and combine the 2 and away we go, I never find it productive just to follow someone else’s work style but rote.

5 folders:

  • In-box (just the standard 1)
  • Pending
  • Reading
  • Closed
  • Trips


I am a zero in-box advocate in line with the GTD methodology. I do not read email all day and focus on batch in-box filtering (note filtering not detailed reading) about 3-4 times per day. Tend to do it first thing, lunch-time then between meetings. Filtering is important and I use all the icons available to me to help, we still use Lotus Notes, and so I use colour coding to identify mails from people who are important, and the internet icon helps me identify external emails. I use rules to shift bulk mails into, in most cases trash, and in the odd case my Reading folder.


This folder is where anything needing an action goes. Unless the email can be instantly replied to while filtering in the in-box it goes to pending. From pending it will either get executed if it’s a short task or a task created in remember the milk. Once an email is actioned or recorded in remember the mil then its moved to closed.


Everything goes here unless its trash so it gets deleted. I don’t believe in project folders as I just never have time to file. Instead I rely on full text indexes to allow me to search and retrieve content quickly and accurately.


The only exception to the closed folder is trips. I do like to have travel documents, hotel confirmations, booking documents for each trip in a folder – especially when going overseas. The number of times I’ve had to pull out my blackberry to remind me of flight times, or get the check-in reference to print boarding cards in overseas hotels. It just helps and settle the travel risk and allows me just to quickly do a sanity check before trips that I have everything. Most times that folder gets printed before going overseas too (theres nothing worse than having no power while trying to remember which hotel you are staying in for customs paperwork).

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