Wednesday, October 05, 2011

How I'm handling work e-mail these days

I swear I get more and more e-mail every day and it's all being pushed out to my mobile devices (iPad and iPhone). I need to reference my e-mail in new and different ways, in context of the entire conversation and in the context of knowing more about the people. Here's a basic overview on how I'm handling e-mail from a process standpoint and a technology standpoint:

Technology - I'm using 4 tools to manage my e-mail:

  1. Outlook 2010 - I'm using Outlook 2010 in Windows 7, which is nice because they've created conversation based e-mails that will pull up e-mails in the context of the broader conversation.  It will also connect e-mails to linkedin and facebook profiles.  This can be good and bad.  It will update contact pictures and contact information by pulling from public linked in profiles, which is nice.  I also had it pull a contact picture over of a co-workers posing on the beach in a man-thong.  Awkward. In a given year, I'm sending and receiving over 10GB of e-mail and I never delete anything.  I use outlook's PST files to archive e-mail and a whole foldering system within that, which brings up the necessity of the next two tools..
  2. ClearContext - This tool has changed my life.  It helps with intelligent tagging and storage of your e-mail conversations.  Here's how it works: When you send an e-mail, it will prompt you to file the e-mail and bring up a series of suggestions based on who it's to and the subject line.  That suggestion is a hierarchical series of folders that corresponds to a folder hierarchy in your PST file.  The next time you receive an e-mail in that conversation, it will remember that and automatically tag and archive the e-mail out of your inbox.  It allows you to deal with an entire conversation easily and remembers the tag as you reply to a thread.
  3. X1 - I've been using X1 to search my Outlook PSTs and inbox and I hate it.  It used to be amazingly fast and I convinced many others to use it, because it would instantly find e-mails that I couldn't track down any other way.   It's now slow, painful and unresponsive.  Other than that, it's great.  I don't know if it's the number of e-mails I've got, or my environment - but everything else works great on my system, except for X1.  It can take 15 seconds just to launch it.  I need to find something else, or figure out how to get the performance to be decent.  I'd tried Xobni a while ago, but had it dog my machine down. I might have to go back to it.
  4. SafePSTBackup - This is a great tool.  It allows you to backup your PST incrementally, while outlook is still running.  I archive my PST's out to dropbox and this lets me not have to backup all 10GB every night.  It's free right now and works flawlessly.
I wish I could say that I'm going with a zero-inbox philosophy, but my e-mail has been overflowing and I'm not dealing with it well, except maybe with how I archive it.  I archive everything to a PST and never delete anything. I have two PSTs by the year, one for sent and deleted and another for everything else.   I use folders pretty meticulously with top level folders like Customers, Team, Internal, Technologoy, etc and then build them from there.  ClearContext helps simplify this in a big way.  

I would have switched to Outlook 2011 (the mac version) a while back, but my company has not upgraded their servers to Exchange 2010 to support the platform.  Hopefully by the end of the year.  What I love about Microsoft Exchange is the real time syncing of my e-mail and contacts across multiple devices.  This allows me to simultaneously have my e-mail, calendars and contacts sync'd up across my laptop, iphone and iPad.

Any ideas that I'm missing?  Maybe a good search engine or better way to backup e-mail and deal with PSTs?

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