Genealogy: How to organize and manage your genealogy email

How to organize and manage your genealogy emailBy Barry J. Ewell

A big part of keeping your inbox and your email organized is discipline, along with having a system that you consistently put into practice. There are several tasks you can put into place upon checking your email to keep ahead of your email clutter.

Put your “delete” button to work. If you do not recognize the sender, look at the subject line. Are there funny characters or alphanumeric gibberish, or does it just not make sense? Delete it! Don’t fall for tricky subject fields that say any number of enticing comments that only someone you know or do business with would say. None of these types of emails are from friends or folks you know, and they won’t be from companies you do business with. They are from spammers, and the worst kind, too — those who underestimate your intelligence by thinking these emails will be something you would take seriously.

If you don’t know the sender and the subject field looks off, send it to the trash. Never respond to these messages (even to request removal from their email listings) since they use your response to note an active email address, keeping you hostage to their continued invasions of unwanted mail!

Once you have deleted all irrelevant or unwanted messages, your remaining email will probably be a compilation you may need to keep on hand for future reference: several emails from the same person; email from companies that send you their information quite regularly; email that is personal business; email of a more serious nature; and so on.

Set up filters. You are now ready to determine what to do with the remaining emails that still need to be organized in an efficient manner. This is where filters come into play. Filters (or “Rules,” as they are called in Outlook) are what allow you to organize your email upon download (and send too). As you download your email, it will be sorted into email folders set up for specific topics or contacts. This is a quick and easy way to become more organized.

You can have a “Mom” filter that sends all email from dear old Mom right into your Mom folder. Set up filters to have email from your banking sites go directly to its own folder. Your favorite site can have its own folder. You can even have information from your financial institutions automatically end up in a folder specifically divided into further folders (such as annuity, CDs, stock, bonds).

The benefit of filters is that if you organize your emails to go into their own folders, your inbox will have less of your requested or expected emails — leaving only the questionable email for you to review. Filters only need to be set up once, and they stay in place until you delete them.

Other benefits of using filters are that you can use them to send certain email right to the trash, bypassing your inbox altogether. Filters can be configured to find certain adult or offensive terms when listed in the subject line or body text of an email message and send them right to trash on the download.

Let’s go back to your inbox. You now have filters in place that organize your email upon download, so all the email you requested or expected will automatically go into its appropriate folders for you to read at your convenience. Now your inbox should only have the orphan email with nowhere to go. After following the suggestions about using your delete button, begin to review your remaining email.

If you run into an email that is from a new mailing list you’ve subscribed to and you plan on getting regular emails from, stop and make a folder and filter to accommodate these future emails. Set up a filter to look for something specific to that email (usually an email address works best), and then all future emails from that mailing list will go directly into their own folders. Do this for any email topic or contact for which you plan to receive email on a regular basis.

Read and delete unwanted emails. Read your email as time permits and then delete any email that doesn’t have content worth keeping for future reference. Having too many email files uses a ton of your system’s resources, so empty your trash often. Not keeping copies of email you really will never need in the future helps remove the clutter and drain on system resources.

Prioritize. When reading your email, you can prioritize when you want to address them in the future. Many email programs allow you to label email by color when viewing a particular folder. For example, you could have labels that at a glance tell you how you have prioritized your tasks — let’s say red for “urgent,” blue for “later,” and yellow for “maybe.” By opening that specific email box, you know at a glance which email you have set to address right away and which you can get to as time permits.

Create a folder called Follow-Up, Interesting or To-Do. This is where you will file some of the emails from your inbox that piqued your interest or that you would like to review in more detail but just don’t have the time right now. Then, when time permits, you can go to that folder and check into which emails are worth keeping. Once you review them, though, either send them to another folder for safekeeping or send them to the trash.

Clear your inbox daily. To avoid email backup, be sure your inbox is cleared each day. Move email to trash, a specific folder, or your to-do folder, and then empty the trash. If email is older than 90 days in your to-do folder, send it to trash, since most likely the information or offer is no longer current. By doing so each day, you keep your inbox clear and your email much more organized.

Take out the trash. Your “trash” folder should be emptied daily — but before doing so, be sure to take a quick look just in case any of your filters inadvertently picked up on some terms that were included in email that you didn’t want to trash. This happens quite often. A quick once-over before deleting your trash will ensure legitimate email you do want to read doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

What about all these folders? Have as many folders as you need to be organized and call them whatever will intuitively work for you with a glance. This system is meant to be unique to each and every user — make sure you use terms and a system that works for you.

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