Tame the Beast Continues: Katie’s Email Folder System

Nov 6, 2015

Here in Together-land, we are continuing to slay the email beast, bit-by-bit. First, by setting routines like Will, then by managing expectations like Tony, and then by adjusting norms like New Orleans College Prep. Today, we will take a peek at yet another approach—a disciplined folder system.

Katie, a school leader in Austin, arranges her email folders differently than Will. Here’s how she describes her folder setup:

  • Inbox: Anything that comes in during the day. (Examples: student issues that arise, anything that might eventually get filtered into other folders.)
  • Today: Items that have to be addressed today.  Every afternoon, I filter messages from “This Week” into this folder to set up my replies for the next day. (Example: I get an email on Monday afternoon that I don’t need to address until Tuesday.  I’ll put it in the “Today” folder at the end of the day so I know I need to respond the next day.)
  • “This Week“: I put emails into this folder that I know I need to deal with at some point during the week. [Maia’s Note: This is similar to Will’s Wednesday email block.] (Example: I get an email on Monday that I don’t need to address until Thursday.  I put it in the “This Week” folder, and on Wednesday afternoon I move it to “Today.”)
  • “This Weekend“: These are emails I don’t need to think about until the weekend.  I love this folder the most.  (Example: I get an email from my manager that I need to rewrite goals and I know I’m going to need a chunk of time to get it done that I won’t have until the weekend.  I put this in the “This Weekend” folder.)
  • “Next Week“: This folder is for the emails I receive that don’t require action until the next week.  I look at these over the weekend and place them into the correct folder for the next week. (Example: I get an email during the week that has a tag that says <action required by> and then a date that’s a week or so away.  I put it here in “Next Week.”)

Katie’s system does rely on agreed-upon subject lines with colleagues, time each day in front of her computer, and a supreme amount of discipline. My favorite part of her approach is her strategic procrastination — not dropping everything and answering on the spot. With Katie’s method, she clearly sticks to her priorities and lets her email fall in place around them.