Email Distress: Battling The Inbox

by JL Beeken on 10-17-2011

EmailHave we been here before?

I get too much email. By the time I send several dozen to the Junk folder every morning, I’m exhausted. I know my email addresses are out there in plain view and people who have them on mailing lists are selling them to other people even though it’s against the law but who’s watching and it’s all my fault I’m sure. The worst part about it is that it’s so mesmerizing it seems obligatory.

Now that I think about it, I had a system going on for awhile where I scheduled reading my email. In Thunderbird, there’s an option to right-click on an email and turn it into a calendar item. What happened to that? I don’t know. It was a good system. It left me no escape. At the very least, if you can do a quick sort through your email grabbing anything that’s time sensitive and committing it to your calendar, that would work.

A couple months ago I looked at my mind maps and decided I could divide them into 2 main sections; MANDATORY & ENTERTAINMENT. It’s just one more stab at getting a grip.

If I’m looking at my to-do lists, I start with MANDATORY. Theoretically. My cousin, after a long sabbatical, is back into the family history with a passion so it ain’t easy.

Then I thought that’s a really good divide for the email so I created those two folders to sort the mail into. What I love about this is that it keeps my Inbox clear. The slightly dumb part of it is that, once sorted, I mostly ignore it. I do take a gander at MANDATORY once in awhile so it’s good for that. The critical mail rises to the top and I feel relatively safe not looking at the rest of it for weeks on end.

Dividing it into folders doesn’t make it look any less. Which means it still looks like it’ll take me an entire week to catch up. The only upside is that it’s possible to prioritize somewhat.

MANDATORY would be things like my bank reminding me to download my credit card statements. Because with interest rates at 20% you don’t want to mess around with the banks. And I try to keep up on moderating blog comments.

There’s a little sub-section in there called MAKE MONEY which doesn’t actually have anything to do with making money. It’s just people who are trying to convince me that if I promote their products I can become a gazillionaire overnight. If you write a blog you already know that’s a crock.

And ENTERTAINMENT includes things like genealogy because, clearly, it is entertainment if you look at your life. Unless it keeps a roof over your head, spending your days with dead people is … (I’m shielding myself from the tomatoes coming) … optional.

I’m not saying similar perspectives will help you. I’m just saying …

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jenny Lanctot 10-17-2011 at 8:54 PM

I don’t know if Thunderbird has this feature or not, but have you considered creating rules for your incoming emails? I have my Windows Mail (although I absolutely HATE it) configured to put email from certain senders into certain folders I created. For example, all emails from Family Tree Magazine automatically go into the Family Tree Magazine folder, all emails from one of my family members goes into my ***Family*** folder (it’s marked that way so it’s at the top of my folder list). Whenever I have unread mail in any of the folders, the folder name is bold. This way, I can make sure the non-critical emails aren’t junking up my inbox, and I can read them when I have some free time. This type of setup also allows for more efficient searches within each folder. (And now, any comments to this post will put themselves in my “Comment Follows” folder)

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JL 10-17-2011 at 9:05 PM

Absolutely. It’s possible to set up Filters any-which-way I want to do it. Folders can be sorted by column so an obvious choice is to sort by Sender. They can also be sorted by Date and that’s the scary one, seeing how far back it goes. AND there’s a search function so if I want everything that has a particular word in it, I can find mail that way too. AND there’s a tagging system with colors, so no lack of methods for sorting email. My war is getting around to reading it.

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