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IBM research has determined that those email users that move their messages into folders are not as efficient as those who use search instead – and we spend on average 10% of our time filing emails, creating a new email folder every five days.

345 users created 85,000 email operations, with the conclusion that: “People who create complex folders indeed rely on these for retrieval, but these preparatory behaviors are inefficient and do not improve retrieval success. In contrast, both search and threading promote more effective finding.”

The report is focused on “refinding”, that is – finding a previously received email that you need. Refinding occurs when you want to refer to an email that you put off replying to, or to return to an email to reference some information in it or the contact info.

Users are broken into two main areas. Those who use “preparatory” tactics and those that use “opportunistic” tactics. Preparatory tactics are essentially creating a folder system to organize your emails so that you know where to go back to retrieve them. Opportunistic tactics are to use the search and other features within your email software to retrieve old emails.

Maybe it’s time to rethink your email practices?