How to get a handle on office organization
June 22, 2010 9:04 AM   Subscribe

What system and/or software can be used to organize constantly changing information/emails etc?

My job has recently changed, and I am becoming overwhelmed. Previously I worked on one huge project so all data, requests, email related to that. Now I have 6 good size departments/projects, which all have a constant influx of email requests, emailed reports (budgets, expenses, employees, etc), and related projects.

I am trying to figure out how to organize everything so I do not miss any deadlines, data requests etc. I am also trying to avoid printing out millions of pages of paper to file or put into binders which seems to be the way other staff handle it. This seems wasteful and inefficient to me. Also I spend a lot of time on 2 other campuses so access by computer to info would be much more helpful.

So any suggestions? We do have One Note available but no one has ever used it. Email is through Outlook where I do have each area with its own folder.
posted by maxg94 to Work & Money (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you have everything organized into folders already, it seems like the main issue there would just be notification to make sure you don't miss deadlines or data requests. Could you set up calendar reminders, or if remote access is really important to you, reminders via Google Calendar?

As for sorting files: I download every attachment as soon as I get it and name/file/tag it appropriately. It makes it easier than trying to hunt through my inbox four weeks after the fact looking for one specific thing.
posted by Phire at 9:17 AM on June 22, 2010

If you have Outlook 2007 something I've found great for organizing chunks of data is to use their categorization feature. It lets you put tags on messages so that you can sort by that instead of just the usual date/sender types. I have a folder for a project and then I tag all the messages that go into that folder with their appropriate type (eg report, expense, budget, etc) then when I need to find all the budget emails I can look in that folder and grab it by category.
Another great tool that I use is the Google Calendar Sync for Outlook. It lets you pick directions (one to the other or two way) to sync your appointments. I used this before my android phone updated to allow Exchange calendar syncing directly.
Something else to consider - check with your IT folk to see if you have web Outlook access. Most companies do and no one realizes that it's there except for the IT folk. If you do then you can logon to a website ( and have an internet based version of your email wherever you are.
posted by msbutah at 9:22 AM on June 22, 2010

an internet based version of your email wherever you are.

Just be careful if you do this to make sure that your folders are not on your hard drive. If they are, then you won't be able to access them via the web version.
posted by CathyG at 9:46 AM on June 22, 2010

DevonThink will allow you to set up groups/databases for Departments (and subgroups for projects), is web-accessible, and has an iPhone app.
posted by gene_machine at 10:13 AM on June 22, 2010

Have you explored the Tasks feature in Outlook?

If that doesn't work well for you, you might want to look into software for GTD (Getting Things Done):

127 GTD apps compared

I've definitely struggled with an overloaded inbox. I've tried to get in the habit of opening each email and extracting each thing I need to do ("okay, I need to adjust the CSS on that page" or "right, I've got to call Linda next week to discuss moving the site to a new server"), putting it into a database. Once I've got the tasks in my list, I can send a short reply, if necessary, and file the email in my archives.

The trick, of course, is making sure your list or GTD tool captures any due dates, and making sure you review your list often enough to make sure you're getting everything taken care of.
posted by kristi at 10:57 AM on June 23, 2010

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