Search. Don’t file!

How much time do you spend filing emails? How much time do you spend looking for an email you’ve filed?

A study done by IBM asked the question …

“Am I wasting my time organizing email?

Basically, the study’s goal was to determine what takes less time – searching through your inbox to find a buried email or organize emails into folders.

What they discovered was searching through your inbox is much faster. On average, it took participants 66.07 seconds to search for an email, and 72.87 seconds to find an email in a folder.

What those findings didn’t take into account is how much time is spent sorting and filing emails in the first place. The study also measured and found that “people spend an average of 10% of their total email time filing messages.” Add that to your email time and it seems searching through your inbox is the winner by a wide margin.

Still, it’s not a huuuuuge amount of time, but if you find yourself searching through a myriad of folders in your day looking for that elusive-but-really-important email, this could add up to some serious time loss.

Does this mean I’m telling you not to file emails at all?

No. I’m not a fan of having an inbox with hundreds or even thousands of emails sitting there. After all, how do you know what still needs to be addressed if it’s buried somewhere among the plethora of emails?

I have a much better idea and it’s really easy to do too. My motto is KISS (Keep It Super Simple) – so here it is …

Have one folder where you file all of the emails you want to keep!

That’s right. One folder.

Imagine this scenario …

You need to find an email from the past. You know you filed it so you use your search tool to narrow down and locate the email inside your one folder. Within seconds you’ve located it! Yay!!!

Versus … clicking on a folder, using your search tool, or worse, scrolling – not finding it there, clicking on another folder, repeating the above action, and on and on and on …

At one time, productivity experts preached about the value of a good filing system, but with today’s technology and the powerful search tools built into our email programs, we can pretty much eliminate the need for a filing system.

Here’s the rationale:
it’s a trade-off. Most of the stuff we file never gets reviewed, yet each email takes time and thought to file, and then a search within the given folder anyway.

This adds up to considerable effort with little payoff. On the occasions when you do need to find an email, a word search takes less time than all that filing effort.

Here’s how to do it:

Create a folder and call it ‘Completed’ – this is where you will store all emails you want to keep.

Create another folder called *Action – this is where you will store any emails that still need your attention – this is one piece of an action-based email system I teach my clients.

Sort your Inbox by ‘From’ and quickly scan and delete any junk mail, or emails from sources you know you don’t need to keep.

File action emails into your *Action folder for later attention.

File the remaining emails into your Completed folder.

Voila! That bulging inbox has been cleared in very little time and you can now start taking action on the emails that need your attention. You’ll find them in your *Action folder 🙂

Search. Don’t file. Get stuff done.

Now, get on with your day!







About Georgina Forrest

Georgina Forrest is a Productivity Coach & Organizing Specialist at Smartworks! Enterprises Inc. in Red Deer, Alberta. Her credentials include Certified Professional Organizer (CPO®), Organizer Coach, and membership with Professional Organizers in Canada (POC) where she has attained Gold Leaf status – a designation acknowledging her as an experienced professional organizer. Her specialties are geared toward increasing productivity, streamlining administration and decreasing stress in the workplace. She will teach you how to manage your time, space and information so you can be more effective and efficient at work. Additionally she offers training programs, productivity coaching and time management-related presentations.