Software

Sending the Inbox into receivership

If you've got an e-mail inbox with thousands of e-mails just sitting there, chances are you are living inside your inbox and that you are a slave to mail notifications. To overcome this problem and get on top of your e-mail rather than vice versa, here are a couple of techniques.

If you've got an e-mail inbox with thousands of e-mails just sitting there, chances are you are living inside your inbox and that you are a slave to mail notifications.

To overcome this problem and get on top of your e-mail rather than vice versa, here are a couple of techniques.

The first and most drastic is to declare e-mail bankruptcy. Delete everything, make a clean break with the past and start over again — few have the intestinal fortitude to successfully pull this off, but it does seem the easiest and quickest way to break with the past.

Another interesting approach that I saw recently was Inbox Zero — the theory being that as e-mail arrives, you do something about it: delete, archive, to-do, reply.

I'm currently using a bastardised form of Inbox Zero — and have a few tips to improve your general e-mail well being and stop it from looking like this:

Most people's e-mail on a good day


  • Don't be afraid to delete: If you've got thousands of e-mails every single one of them cannot possibly be useful now or in the future. Bite the bullet and delete old emails — when was the last time you looked at incredibly important message from 2004?
  • One archive to rule them all: I used to have many folders for different aliases and lists — each of which would fill up with thousands of messages. All they did was sit there and fill with messages. They were utterly useless and were condensed into one archive; considering that I would search for older e-mails anyway, why did I bother breaking them apart in the first place?
  • Smart folders instead of IMAP folders: As an extension to the above point, rather than divide up e-mail threads across folders by sender (I still do find it useful to divide e-mail by sender to quickly address messages "from above") why not search across all folders and filter that way? In this case, I could see the whole thread in the archive, in the order the e-mails were received and still view them by sender if I wanted. I haven't tried this yet, as it would depend upon how resource intensive that searching is or how good the mail client is at indexing, but it's next on my list to try.


For more good tips on getting on top your mail, watch or listen to the below video for an introduction to inbox zero.

About Chris Duckett

Some would say that it is a long way from software engineering to journalism, others would correctly argue that it is a mere 10 metres according to the floor plan.During his first five years with CBS Interactive, Chris started his journalistic advent...

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