One of the great benefits of using a database (like Microsoft Outlook) is all the different ways you can slice and dice your data. For example, say it is time to start beefing up your staff and you want to find all the contacts in your database that are recruiters. If you have created a contact record for every recruiter you received an e-mail from and categorized them as recruiters then this is a task you can accomplish in a matter of seconds. If you have segregated all emails from recruiters in a “recruiter” sub folder, then things won’t go quite as fast because
you’ll need to group these emails by “From” and then fish through them to see if there is a number in the signature link, etc. Even worse, if you haven’t created a special folder for these emails, you could be searching for a long while through your Inbox reviewing several emails to remember who is who.
Your Inbox is a great place to manage communication, but it is not necessarily a great data repository. Think of your Inbox as a way station where data is received and then properly assigned to the place where it can be most effectively used. In the case of contact information, that place is your Contacts folder. In the case of meeting coordination, that place is your Calendar folder. In the place of to-dos, that place is your Task folder – you get the picture.
Do you ever need to save emails in your Inbox sub folders? Of course you do. But make sure that emails you save don’t have value beyond just text. If they do, chances are they belong somewhere else and at some point you will want to be able to locate them for reference or use them to help generate a statistic.
For example, what if you wanted to know what percentage of your recruiter contacts are based out of New York. If you are using a search function in an email folder, you may be able to find all the emails in your Recruiter folder that use the word “New York” – but, are some of these emails referencing positions in New York or recruiters in New York? If instead, you have created contact records for all of these recruiters, you can go to your Contacts folder, switch to the By Category view and then add a sub grouping (under Category using the Group By box) for City. Now when you look at the Recruiter category you will see a number for recruiters and when you look at the City grouping, you will see a number for the New York group – simple calculation to get your percentage.
So the next time you are tempted to store information in your Inbox that belongs in another folder, remember how much time you will save later if you spend a couple of seconds now dragging and dropping the email to the right folder to create an item that can be used to quickly sort and filter data like a proper database.
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