PhD Life Research Methods

Too many emails in your inbox? Use Outlook Folders to automatically manage them

This post was originally published at the PhD Life blog on 7th of Dec 2011, see here for the comments on this post.

Editor’s note: Please welcome Salma Patel to our blogging community! Salma is is a doctoral researcher at the University of Warwick with a primary research interest in digital engagement and participation in healthcare environment design. She has a background in computing, web design, education, librarianship and management. You can follow her on twitter: @salma_patel

How many of you have way too many emails in your inbox?

A couple of months into my PhD I subscribed to Google Scholar Alerts. I inputted various keywords that Google could used to send me alerts if a new paper was published using those keywords. So every 2-3 days I receive around 8 emails from Google alerting me to papers to read. This is of course fantastic. However, in August, I took a two week break which was a complete break from the internet and my iPhone (I’d say this rather bizarre experience probably deserves a post of its own). When I came back, I had 150 emails, from which around 100 where from Google Scholar Alerts, other newsletters I had subscribed too, and basically emails that didn’t require urgent attention. The emails I was wanted to see in front of me where the ones from my supervisor and others related directly to my research.

With an inbox that flashed at me that I had 100+ emails that still needed to be read, it was demotivating to say the very least (as I am the organised type of person), even though I knew I had taken care of the ‘important’ ones. A month later I joined a professional online society, which started sending me around 30 emails per day. As all my emails are setup on push (both on my laptop and on my iPhone), this is when I knew there had to be a way for my inbox to realise that some emails are much more ‘important’ in the short term than others. So this is how my love story with Outlook Folders began …

Outlook Folders allows one to direct emails from certain email addresses into folders that sit within the inbox, but are don’t appear in the main inbox. So for example, all emails coming from Google Scholar alerts sit in the Google Scholar alerts folder instead of the Inbox, and all emails from PM Group, sit in the PM Group folder:

Outlook Folders setup

This now means:

1. I am not alerted on my laptop or iPhone (by push) when emails from Google Scholar/PM Group arrive (as I don’t want to be alerted because they are not in my priority list, but I could of course change those settings)

2. Hence I can concentrate on emails that are important in the short term.

3. It means that my emails are better organised, and easily searchable.

4. I don’t feel guilty every time I look at my inbox – I have the honour of having zero-inbox even if it is not technically zero! 😉 (Some could argue this is not a good thing …)

I’m also thinking about how I could use utilise Outlook Folders effectively in other ways too. For example, all emails coming in from finance or careers office etc could go straight into folders, so the only emails left in my main Inbox would be emails related directly to my research. I could use them to clean up my inbox too. Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? Removes clutter, organises emails automatically and makes me feel good, what more could a girl ask for? Or am I just blinded by love?