I was just reading on Michael Hyatt’s blog about a nifty way to organize email following the ideas from David Allen’s Getting Things Done. And sites like 43folders.com regularly have well thought-out about staying on top of your tasks.
I did something similar to Michael a while ago and thought somebody might find it useful. First, keep in mind that I use IMAP
for my email. Many paid email hosting services and email server
programs like Exchange support IMAP, although I can’t think of any free
providers that do. IMAP keeps your messages *and* folders on your
mail server and can make life convenient if you have to switch between
computers when traveling, etc.
Here is a screenshot of my folders in Thunderbird:
try to follow the GTD approach. At first, I created folders
called next-tasks, waiting, someday-maybe, and reference. But
Thunderbird won’t let you rearrange the order of folders inside an
account. I did find here a Thunderbird extension that will let you reorder your accounts if you have multiple email accounts.
To get around the order issue (I really wanted next-tasks first and
waiting second), I renamed my folders to 1_next-tasks, 2_waiting, etc.
to work around Thunderbird’s need to alphabetize my folders.
After about a week or so I found that I needed to break my reference
section up a little bit. So I use the main 4_reference folder for
generic reference info and then use the more specific sub-folders when
I need to. I also added a folder called 5_candidates because
we’re always hiring and I wanted to track resumes separately as a
Our email system and many others support folders in a very helpful
way: if my email address is email@example.com and I have a subfolder
called "hello", I can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and
the message will be delivered directly to my hello folder. BTW, I
don’t really have a hello folder so please don’t send me an email
That way, I don’t have to create any rules to copy an email to my
own waiting folder the way Michael describes. To take advantage
of Thunderbird’s address auto-complete, I did add contacts to my
address book like "waiting" with an email address including
"+2_waiting" inside to get the email directly to the right folder.
I used to print resumes, evaluate them, make a few notes on them,
then file them as "good" (as in might be a good fit) and "other" (a
gentle way of saying probably not a good fit) and file them in my
cabinet. But I really wanted to go paperless as much as possible
There is a great Thunderbird extension, called Message Notes
that has been a huge help with resumes, next tasks, etc. It adds
a small section to my email messages and a button to let me add a note
to the email. Now, when I receive a resume, it goes into the
resume folder. When I’m ready to review resumes I go to the
folder, read a resume, add my note to the email, then move that email
to the right subfolder.
I put specific next task notes on an email before moving it to the
right folder, and put specific waiting-for notes on emails inside that
folder. That way, I don’t have to re-read an entire email to see
what I’m supposed to do. Because this is so useful, I don’t often
use the above mailbox+folder trick above with waiting-for messages; I
just sent my email then add a note to the message in my inbox before
dragging and dropping into my waiting folder.
My system is mostly functional. It is still tough to keep my inbox clean with as many emails as I get (hey, I work for an email hosting company!) But overall I’m pretty happy with it.