I was once a Product Manager and dealt with 150-200 actionable emails a day. In the Pre-Sales role the volume tends to be lower and much of it is essentially instant messaging. The challenge of handling, organizing, and cleaning up the mailbox remains.
As a Product Manger, I would do email in batches. I’d stay off the email server for half the business day, then dedicate an hour to downloading and manually processing messages into folders for Today, Tomorrow, and Next Week. Then I’d tackle the Todays and Tomorrows as a priority. Next Week was a black hole where emails went to wander, lonely and forgotten. I figured if it was important, people would ping me again. They usually did.
In my Pre-Sales role, the trick is keeping the number of folders simple and taking advantage of the email folder’s search box.
I have offline folders for Opportunity, Product, Corporate and another for Travel.*
Anything Opportunity related- sales team notifications, strategy emails, messages from the customer, documents, etc. get stuffed there. I can find anything I want with a keyword search using names of people involved, the customer name, or something unique about the situation, e.g. “Smith, Marketing, MegaBigCo” and voila, it’s one of the resulting items that has been filtered out.
Product gets any interesting Product Management announcements, hints and tips, customer reference stories, presentations, answers to technical questions shared by the Pre-Sales community. Again, finding content is judicious keyword searching.
Corporate gets the occasional organizational announcements and anything else that looks like business news.
Travel is an online folder to hold all my travel reservations and receipts, and is conveniently accessible from my smart-phone when I land and wonder what hotel I’m staying at, or what time my return flight departure is.
Hard drive space is cheap; searching and indexing are impressively fast and effective; I hate over-organizing with color coding, multiple levels of sub-folders, flags and follow ups and categorization. The tags you need to find information are already in the documents. Use them.
What we could all really use is the discipline to hit the delete key more often and risk not having that one email at our disposal the instant we really need it.
What if we could get over the fear of losing what we think is an important email? Just delete each message once we’re done with it? I know, I know, many emails are reference material. But what a dream-to begin and end each day with no email.
*Actually, I have another offline folder I call Praise. Any feedback from reps or people I’ve helped gets stuffed there. It’s surprising how many “thank you!” or “awesome job!” emails pile up through the course of the year.