Monday, January 20, 2020

Day 20: Organize Your Correspondence

On Day 4 you looked into your email inbox (if you had the courage) and saw a lot of things that could be immediately deleted (spam, irrelevant items), and many other things that could be saved for future reference (newsletters can fall into this category, as well as information about upcoming genealogy meetings and conferences that you plan to attend). You also may have created a !Waiting tag or folder to put notices of things that you're expecting in the future, such as books or genealogical records that you've ordered.

But let's focus this day on thinking about correspondence in general. The concept of correspondence has been with us in the English language since at least the 1600s, but of course in pre-email days it referred to letters. Today, it's likely that physical letters are a very tiny percentage of your genealogy-related correspondence, and are limited to those folks who don't own computers and have never bothered to obtain an email account. Even so, you'll need to keep track of any letters that come your way, so that they don't disappear in stacks of other papers.

In terms of physical letters, you'll want a folder for "To be answered" filed prominently near your main desk, such as in a stand-up folder organizer. If no answer is expected or appropriate, you can file the letter instead in a folder that goes with the surname or individual of interest. You'll also want to update your contact file with the mailing address of anyone you are communicating with, so that you can find it easily. (Be sure to tag the contact entry with the surnames you were communicating about, so that you can find the name and address even when you don't remember the contact's name.)

In the same way, organize your incoming and outgoing email. Create surname tags/folders for copies of the email, tag email that deserves a response as "!To be answered", and put copies of your sent messages in "!Waiting" if you are expecting a response.

You should already have at least one block of time per day to process email (include processing physical mail in the same block, so you may want to schedule this block right after your daily mail delivery).  Then create additional time blocks several times a week to work on the items in your "!To be answered".  If you think that it may be a while before you can respond to an email, respond to the email just with a statement saying that you got their email and you'll write them a response by some future date. Then they won't guess as to whether or not you got their email.

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