After several months of using the Free version of the ClearContext addon for Microsoft Outlook, I just cant imagine what I would do without it. It has reduced my email time, kept me more organized, and uncluttered my Inbox better & faster than any ad-hoc system I have devised in the past.
As a developer, I hate it when I have to "code in Outlook". If it were up to me, I would ban all email during a project and deal with all communication via instant messenging, Scrum meetings, and whiteboards, but the truth is that email is a neccessary evil especially as a Tech Lead who needs to interface with the Project Manager, Customer, and IT personnel.
Enter ClearContext Information Management System...
First, I set it up to flag emails from my bosses in Red, so I dont miss them. Plus, for good measure, I have an Outlook rule that sets a FollowUp flag to make sure I dont overlook them. Also, ClearContext automagically ranks emails based upon my prior history with this person, so I know what to do when I get some nice blue and green colored mail too.
If I receive an email relating to my current project, I simply hit ALT-P to popup the CC dialog and flag it with the topic "projects/MyProject" then either leave it in the inbox for further review, or hit ALT-M to file the message for future reference. Accordingly, if I receive some corporate or administrative relating email, then I assign it's topic appropriately and file the message to send it to its respective holding area.
The act of assigning a Topic (ALT-P), automatically creates subfolders within my Inbox (e.g. inbox/projects/MyProject) matching the topic name (Note the trick of adding a "/" to the topic name to create a nested subfolder at the same time). The act of filing a message (ALT-M), moves it to the subfolder identified by the topic name. This is great because the messages are nolonger visible in the Inbox listing, but are still within the Inbox via the subfolder.
At that point, my AutoArchive settings will take care of moving it off on a monthly basis in case I need it later.
At some point, I want to look at the full product, which has features for deferring emails, converting them to tasks & appointments, assigning them to other people, etc. See their Features Overview section for more on these areas.
If these features are nearly as useful as the ones I use now, then I could *gasp* become even more productive! woot!