Personal technology notes: email management edition

March 1st, 2005  |  Tags: ,

Merlin Mann linked to this post by Jason Clarke, which has the mildly provocative title “If your inbox has more than a screenful of messages in it, you’re rude.” Clarke distinguishes between e-mail “filers” and “pilers.” Here’s a choice quote:

The problem with the system that Pilers use is that email never stops arriving. For many of us, it arrives at a faster rate than we believe we can handle it (another excuse for piling). What this means is that as new mail comes in, important mail gets pushed down, off the first screen of messages, and out of the piler’s consciousness. That message that they’ve read 8 times and thought “oh, I need to get back to her about that” eventually gets pushed off the screen, and is never thought of again, unless the piler specifically remembers that message, which is unlikely

My goal is to stop being rude, so I’ve adopted a GTD-like approach to my inbox. I have stopped using Mail.appetizer, which helpfully interrupted me every time I got a non-urgent message from some mailing list that I read casually. (Mail.app really needs a “next unread message in any mailbox” command. For Pete’s sake, Pine has this feature!) As a result, I have to make time to read mailing list mails, which are automatically filed into other folders, but I am able to survey them in a more useful manner, and on my own time, as a result.

I took 4000+ unfiled inbox messages and filed them into IMAP folders, archiving them by academic year and term. Ideally, in the future, I’ll be able to keep all of my messages in one monster archive location and simply have smart searches that act like folders, but it’s pretty easy to do a quick grep of the archive when necessary now. (I’m not using Zoë anymore because it doesn’t play nicely with the one or two applications I use that need most of the CPU, like Logic.) Now, I file messages away as soon as I’ve dealt with them, using Aaron Swartz’s keystroke-triggered mail-archiving AppleScript.

I currently have 2 messages in my inbox; both are there to remind me that they must be replied to. When I cons up some to-do list manager that can link to mail messages, the count will come closer to 0.

I’m currently listening to Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele, Op. 67.36 from the album “Sämtliche Orgelwerke Vol. 11” by Max Reger (1873-1916)