Funny enough, a study has come out. Getting too organized in email can be detrimental to productive and efficient work.
It's true. IBM learned so in a study.
It's my own experience, too. I've spent a lifetime getting organized. As a kid building model cars, aircraft and ships, I grouped and organized them in neat displays. My room was tidy. Mom never needed to tell me clean it. I like it cleaned. Organized.
Military life and being married to an organized woman helps. The military specialized in labelling and tagging information and materiels so it was easily grouped and recognized. I like the structure organizing give me. When we bought our first house, I delighted in organizing the garage and closets, measuring and plotting, obsessive, anal, satisfying.
Have you been to Containers and see the stuff there? I browse Home Depot, Sears, Lowes and other hardware stores, checking out the ways to become more organized. There's sweet stuff there.
As an organizing afficionado, email was a new challenge. Email didn't come to the military until the last three years of my career. I started organizing it in folders. Why not? It's paperless paper, right? 'Soft copies?' There wasn't much volume. Agencies still used staff summary sheets, briefings, presentations, conferences and memos to get the word out.
My first civilian job post military life was a small medical device startup. Organizing folders in that email system also wasn't taxing, since there wasn't much volume. We were small. People just tended to walk around, stick their head in your office, and tell you things, or pass information on in the lunch room. Things changed when US Surgical and then Tyco bought us but even then, in 1998, the mail volume wasn't huge.
Times have changed. I work for a Fortune 100 global corp. My home office is five hours from my campus and the brand's home office is in Atlanta. Global headquarters are in New York, and I deal with people all over the world through, in order, emails, online chats, conference calls, and phone calls.
Starting this position, I worked hard to organize things. It became tough. The emails grow and branch out like freaking weeds. A thread starts with one subject and morphs into collateral topics, launching spin-offs and parallel conversations. Organizing by topics became counter efficient. Filing by sender didn't work, either. I found myself working harder to keep organized and discovered it was easier to just maintain everything in the inbox. It's sorted by date, from newest to oldest and divided into important and normal section, with a third section for calendar invitations. I do color code the email summary lines by the sender's group - regulatory, HR, supply chain, warehouse, so on.
It's sweet. Just one folder to check. I delete previous messages so that only the last email in the thread, including the splitters, are saved, unless there's a reason for keeping an additional one. Follow up flags help. Flag something and it's set off in its own little panel. You can even set reminders, link them to the calendar and to to-do lists.
For more about organizing and its contrary impact in email, see the story at http://tinyurl.com/6thw7n2.
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com