How to Organize Emails and Computer Desktop

Understanding how to organize emails and cleaning up your computer desktop are probably not things you normally think about! However both can get extremely cluttered, and it can happen very quickly.  If I go even one day without cleaning up my inbox or desktop they both become a huge mess.
Today I’m going to give you a few tips for how to keep both of them clean and clutter-free.  Just like we would normally use baskets to organize our home, today we are going to be creating folders.  First we will tackle our email inbox.
A few months ago I had a pretty well known blogger email me and ask me how to organize her inbox.  I have always organized my inbox, so I just assumed everyone did it the same way.  I am learning quickly though that I am not “normal”. :)  She said that she never had her blog comments delivered to her inbox because there were just too many and it overwhelmed her inbox.  Even if you aren’t a big-time blogger you can use the same techniques to organize your inbox.
#1 Create folders
I use Hotmail but I know that every email provider allows you to create folders {I have used others in the past}.  Here are the folders that I have in my Ask Anna email.
Choose your folders by thinking about what topics flood your inbox the most.  The folders I have mostly represent the people I write/have written for, the events I’ve done on Ask Anna, giveaways, etc.  I contribute for two amazing blogs, so anything I get from their “owners” I save, so that I can reference it in the future, if need be.  I also have a folder for my sponsors so that any email interaction with them can be saved and I can look back on it {because I have a terrible memory}.
#2. Create rules
Creating “rules for sorting new messages” will make it so that certain emails automatically get sent to certain folders.  This allows the emails to be delivered to you {but not clutter up your inbox} and then you can read them whenever you have the time.

Let me explain.  For my Weekend Warrior Link Party I like to look at each of the projects that are linked up, so I have a my link party set up to have a copy of each link sent to my email.  However I don’t really want all of those sitting in my inbox so I set up a “rule”.  A “rule” makes it so that anything with the word “weekend warrior” in the subject line will be sent directly to the Weekend Warrior folder.  I have rules set up for most of my folders but not all of them, read on…

#3 Read it, then file it
I’m not going to lie, I love checking my email and seeing that I have new messages!  For this reason I don’t have everything sorted into folders.  For example, if you look at the picture below you can see that I have “new” messages in my Reader Questions folder.  I have actually read each and every one of them, I just have not had the time to get back to them.  I get so many reader questions {which I LOVE} but I can’t always answer them right away.  Some of the questions take research or an experiment, which takes time.  So what I do is I read the emails, mark them as new, and then file them in the correct folder.  I also have readers send me great tips {which I also love}, those emails get filed away in the “Ideas for Posts” folder, so when I need something to write about I can open up that folder and pull something out of it!
By creating folders and creating rules you can keep your inbox clean and uncluttered.  Personally I really hate having more than a handful of emails in my inbox, so I try really hard to, at least once a week, go through all of the emails in my inbox and either return the email or file it in one of my folders.
Moving on to your computer desktop.
{I would like to note that I usually have a super cute picture of my daughter on my desktop.  I removed it for this post because I wanted it to be easy to see what I was talking about.}
Just like your email, your computer desktop can also get cluttered up easily.  When I am writing a post I save everything to my desktop so that it’s easy to find.  If I write multiple posts in a day that makes for a pretty messy desktop.  I have also seen others’ desktops that are completely covered in icons because they like to save everything to the desktop.  In my opinion that is a really good way to; 1. lose things because there is too much clutter that you can’t find it and 2. waste valuable time looking for something because there is too much clutter and you can’t find it.  See a theme?
So, just like we did with our email inbox, we are going to create folders.  If you right click on your desktop a box will pop up and you can select “New Folder”.  Add as many folders as you need.
On my desktop I even have my folders organized.  The folders on the left side of my desktop are all work related items and the folders on the right are family things.  I have folders for each of the people I write for: 2 blogs, the newspaper, and when I was doing my Arm & Hammer reviews I also had one for them.  I also have a sponsor folder and an Ask Anna folder.  Anything related to any of these topics gets filed into the folders: pictures, columns, invoices, etc.
The next step is to create folders inside of the folders.  I know this may sound complicated but it’s really not.  It’s basically like having a closet and then putting baskets inside the closet to organize the content in there.  Does that make sense?
Here’s an example.  For this challenge I had a lot of topics to cover and I also had a lot of pictures for each topic.  What I did was I created a 14 Day Challenge folder on my desktop.  Then I placed everything related to this series in there so that I knew exactly where to look for it when I needed it.  But if I just put everything in the folder it would have been tons of pictures and posts to search through to find what I needed each time.  That is why I created a folder, inside the 14 Day Challenge folder, for each topic.  That way each day had it’s own folder and when I needed to reference something for that day, it was quick and easy to find it!
It might take you a little while to get used to this method of organization on your computer but once all of the folders have been set up, and you get used to filing things away, I promise, you will love it.  Getting started is what takes time because you have to search through the content and decide: 1. What can be thrown away, 2. what topics need folders, 3. which items will be sub-folders, etc.  When you think about the process it’s pretty much exactly like cleaning out a closet!
Have fun with this challenge today and please, if you have any questions about it, don’t hesitate to email me!  Take a screen shot Before and After, I think you’ll be amazed at the results!!! {Here’s how to take a screen shot: For a MAC computer press Shift, Command, 3 all at the same time.  For a PC click here for instructions.}
You can find the full list of the 14 Day Challenge HERE!


About the Author

"Hi I'm Anna! Welcome to Ask Anna where I love to answer your household questions! I have always loved to clean, organize and decorate and this blog is a fun way for me to help you love it too! I am a busy mom of a beautiful little girl and I'm married to the love of my life. Together we fill our days with projects , laughter and love. I serve an incredible God and overall I'd say I'm truly blessed!"

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  1. Hi Anna,
    I just discovered your blog from Kelly Elko on blog talk. Thanks for the tips on how to organize our email.
    I’ll be back and happy new year.

  2. I do the folders thing on my computer as well. I like the idea of putting stuff on the desktop but what about back ups? My documents are easily backed up but the desktop is not usually backed up. How do you make sure it gets backed up?