Hamster Revolution Email and Electronic File Management System

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Back in May of this year, I wrote about my new favorite financial organization/filing system that I implemented after reading David Bach’s book, Smart Couples Finish Rich (see the following link for details – My Personal Finance Journey Financial Organization System).
Since implementing this file folder system, my ability to store and locate hard copies of my financial papers has improved dramatically.
Almost equally as effective for me as this hard copy filing system has been an email and electronic filing and management system, created by using advice received in two books – Getting Things Done by David Allen and The Hamster Revolution by Mike Song, et al. Since this system has improved my life and time management ability significantly, I wanted to share it with you all as well.
Today, we’ll start with the portion of the system that I obtained from reading The Hamster Revolution

Overall, the book (which I highly recommend you reading – just click on the link above to buy a cheap used copy from Amazon.com for $0.02!!!) is organized in to 5 sections, as described below.
  • How to reduce email volume
  • How to improve email quality
  • Organizing information (email, hard drive, shared drives, teamsites, anywhere!)
  • How to coach others on email
  • Answers to further questions

To read the complete summary of the book, click on the Google Docs / Word document link below.

While all of the book’s sections offer great advice, I wanted to focus mainly on the “Organizing information” section, as this is what has contributed the most value to my life.

The section starts off by describing some of the challenges of organizing and finding information effectively. Several of the main challenges are listed below.
  • Too many overlapping categories and/or categorization methods exist.
  • There are too many primary folders in your system.
  • Different shared drives, personal drives, and team sites employ mismatched folder systems, making it impossible to know where to store or find the information when you need it.
To combat this insanity, Mike Song proposes a bulletproof system that I have implemented (and would recommend that you try out). 
It’s called the COTAP System.
What is the COTAP System exactly?

The COTAP System is an email and data/information management system that Mike invented after studying many different types of business and what sorts of information flows within these organizations.

What he found was that in all industries, all email and/or information fits in to one of 5 categories – Clients, Output, Teams, Admin, and Personal. I am a big believer in this philosophy. I have found that both at home and at work, all of my information really does fall in to one of these 5 categories.

Furthermore, I have found this system to be effective not only for my emails but also for organizing my electronic files on  my hard drive.

How do I implement the COTAP System?

To create the COTAP folder system on your computer, simply follow the guidelines below, creating folders for each main category and subcategory.

  • Clients – Your team’s internal or external clients
    • Create a subfolder for each one of your clients
  • Output – Your team’s products and services
    • Create a folder for each product, project, or service you are involved in.
    • Also create “general output” folder
  • Teams – Your team
    • Create a folder for each team of which you are a member.
    • Examples would include budget teams, new pharmaceutical drug team, etc.
  • Admin – Your non-core-job responsibilities
    • Create a folder for each non-core-job responsibility
    • Examples would include training, benefits, etc.
  • Personal – Personal information that is non-job related.
    • Examples would include Toastmaster’s public speaking club, Jonny’s karate schedule, cycling team, etc.
  • After creating all of your respective folders, place desktop shortcuts to all of your main COTAP folders so that you can access them quickly.
Note: If there is an overlap and you don’t know where something should go, default to the order of COTAP listed above.

Show below is a screen shot/example of the COTAP system set up on my Outlook email account. Proof that you can do it too!

My COTAP Folders

How about you all? What email/information organization system do you use? Are you satisfied with the results?
Have you implemented the Hamster Revolution COTAP organization system?
Share your experiences by commenting below! 
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Related articles about email and information organization at several of my favorite personal finance blogs:

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