You DON’T Need to Tame your Inbox

There are a gazillion articles out there in the vaporworld about taming your email inbox, reaching “inbox zero”, and nearly as many anal-retentive task-management strategies, à la GTD, to achieve this holy grail of neat-freakness (or is it freak-neatness?).

Never mind that these strategies sold as universal remedies against chaos are heavily culturally biased, as some cultures are actually capable of managing a little chaos, and sometimes even welcome it.

No, the point I want to make, as a follow-up to my recent post on simple task management with Mail.app, is that there is absolutely, positively, no need whatsoever to tame your inbox, achieve inbox zero, apply complex GTD strategies to systematically handle and dispatch incoming emails according to a strict set of rules, or any other such nonsense.

None.

Because really, folders are just so yesterday, and storage space is nearly infinite.

So who cares if your inbox isn’t empty?! The only thing that matters, is being able to find stuff when you need it.

So let me tell you about my Inbox. As I write this, it contains 30,602 messages. That’s right. Thirty thousand six hundred and two messages.

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But you know what? I couldn’t care less, because I never actually set foot in my inbox!

I use Smart Folders in Mail.app, and Labels in Gmail. I can therefore easily see all e-mails from client X by going into the corresponding Smart Folder in Mail.app or label in Gmail.

But I only rarely do that.

In Mail.app, I’ve set up the follwing Smart Mailboxes:

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  • New Mail only shows me unread e-mails
  • Today shows me all incoming and outgoing e-mails of the day
  • Yesterday shows me all incoming and outgoing e-mails of the previous day

For everything else, I simply use search. Because searching in the actual content (and attachments!) of over thirty thousand emails in Mail.app is instantaneous.

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I can find a quote I sent to a client 5 years ago in less time that it takes to read this sentence or enunciate Gee Tee Dee.

So even though I usually exchange at least 50 emails a day, most of the time, I just need to handle this frightening amount of chaos:

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That’s it!

A few technical, behind the scenes tidbits are available after the break.

• I like to POP my Gmail, because I want to have a local database of everything I’ve ever received or sent. And I’ve set up Gmail to automatically archive e-mails that have been POPed. So when I visit Gmail on the Web, the inbox only contains the messages that I haven’t read/POPed yet.
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• Searching for messages online in Gmail is also very fast, and the advanced search syntax is worth learning (at least in part).

• Here’s the setup for my “New Mail” Smart Mailbox:
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• Here’s the setup for my “Today” Smart Mailbox:
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• And finally, I don’t even have to be in Mail.app to search for stuff, as the regular Spotlight search will return emails, which you can double-click to open in Mail.app.

20. February 2010 by sknob
Destination: Geekiness | Leave a comment

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