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Email Strategies

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Email Strategies

LuKreme
After listening to the audio of the latest VidBITS, I thought, "oo 'eck, why not"<1>. Especially since my strategy is quite unlike any of those described. Some might call it schizophrenic, but it works for me.

<http://tidbits.com/article/13597>

Account One:

I use several mail accounts, and I have different strategies for each one. The simplest is the one that gets the most email, and that is the one I use for all my mailing list subscriptions. It is designed to never receive messages in the Inbox, and any messages that are in the inbox are either spam or misguided individuals who reply to me instead of the mailing list I post to.

Every list is sorted into a mailbox using server-side filters. So, all the tidbits mail (including the weekly newsletter) goes into "tidbits". The clever bit is that, also on the server, I have a script that archives all the mail from every mailing list that is more than 30 days old into a folder named zz.[list].2013. The .zz is so that on my iOS devices, the archive folders are forced to the bottom. Most list have their messages automatically tagged as 'read' since I have those subscriptions for reference and for reading when I have time, and I do not want to deal with 10,000 unread list messages. Some lists are excluded from this, and I read every message (like this list).

Account Two:

My second email is the second most active, and that is my work email. This one tends to get three kinds of mail: automated notifications, panicked pleas, and miscellaneous work related emails. So, the strategy there is three fold. Messages from known contacts get filtered (server side) into the main mailbox that I check most. Messages in this mailbox get replied to and filed, or get tagged for a task and filed. This is the mailbox I deal with immediately, and so it operates under an 'inbox zero' directive. Mail never sits in there. It gets replied to and/or dealt with right away.

The Automated mail gets filed away, marked as read. I only need to look at it if there is problem, and I automatically delete it after 90 days. This is stuff like server notices, nightly, weekly, monthly tasks on my servers, etc.

The rest of the mail gets dumped into my inbox and I usually get around to reading it. Maybe. Eventually.

When the unread count gets into the upper three digits I mark everything read.

Account Three:

The third account is my personal account. Mail from family members gets sorted to a Family mailbox which I read generally right away and reply to right away, but messages don't get filed and stay in that box forever. I also have a Friends mailbox that is much the same. There is a receipts folder there that I send all my receipts to (sometimes I drag them, sometimes I just send them to the custom email address that will deposit them in that folder). I actually have several custom addresses that put mail into specific folders on this account. Mail that comes to this account and ends up in the INBOX is generally from people who have accumulated the address over the years. Not exactly spam, but not exactly stuff I read.

Other Accounts:

There is my .mac/mobileme/icloud account which I ONLY use for web registration forms and for mail from Apple and my gmail account which is primarily a backup for my work mail. I almost never use it.

The only other thing of note is that I do use flags in Mail.app to mark mail that I want to easily find again. I don't do this often, and it is usually something like "Hey, that might be useful someday". I have 116 threads marked, going back to 2004 (the first one, interestingly enough, is a conversation I had with some friends and colleagues about this new google mail thing).

<1> In the voice of my hero, Penfold <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0081848/>

--
No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.




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Re: Email Strategies

adamengst
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On Mon, Mar 4, 2013 at 1:02 AM, LuKreme <[hidden email]> wrote:
> After listening to the audio of the latest VidBITS, I thought, "oo 'eck, why not"<1>. Especially since my strategy is quite unlike any of those described. Some might call it schizophrenic, but it works for me.

Nice! This was one thing that came up in the discussion, that none of
us have the sharp distinction of work and personal mail that many
people do, and that undoubtedly plays into successful strategies.

How about others? If you feel that you're handling your mail
successfully, what's your secret?

cheers... -Adam


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Re: Email Strategies

Ron Risley

On 04Mar2013, at 07:45, Adam Engst <[hidden email]> wrote:

> How about others? If you feel that you're handling your mail
> successfully, what's your secret?

I can't use public cloud services, as a lot of mail within my organizations is confidential.

Whatever system I use has to be manageable from multiple clients: Apple Mail, iOS Mail, SquirrelMail. That precludes the use of client-specific flags or tags.

My spam filtering works so well that it's a non-issue in the day-to-day management of my email. (SpamAssassin on the server, SpamSieve on an Apple Mail desktop machine.)

http://spamassassin.apache.org
http://c-command.com/spamsieve

I subscribe to a few moderate-volume lists such as this one. These messages get automatically filtered into specific mailboxes to be dealt with during recreational time. They aren't a management problem.

Everything else, from all of my many email accounts, gets dumped into a single integrated inbox. It can be hundreds of non-spam non-list emails a day. (iOS mail practically requires this approach, given that it is so inbox-centric.)

When I'm done with a message, it gets dumped into a single archive mailbox. No sorting, flagging, or tagging.

The process:

There are some messages I *have* to see right away. I'm a physician and a parent, and personal voicemail comes to my inbox as transcribed messages (courtesy of PhoneTag). I rely heavily on badging, so that any unread messages in my OS X or iOS mailbox get my immediate attention, even if I only have a few seconds between patients.

http://phonetag.com

If a message is a true emergency, my world simply has to stop until I've dealt with it. Fortunately, this is rare (3-4 times per year at most, I'd guess).

If a message needs urgent attention but can wait until I have a tad more time, it gets marked as unread. That way there will still be a badge, even if I don't get any more email in the mean time (I wish!). This is still pretty rare, maybe 2-3x/month.

If a message needs same-day attention but will take some time and isn't urgent (but must not be forgotten), it goes into a procrastination mailbox. In the past, things in the procrastination mailbox might languish for weeks, so I've recently written an AppleScript that, about every hour, moves the messages from the procrastination mailbox back to my inbox and marks them as unread. As a practical matter, these messages will get reprocrastinated (that really should be a word!) until (1) a patient cancels an appointment at the last minute, (2) I have a scheduled break such as lunch, or most likely (3) I'm done seeing patients (or being a hands-on dad) for the day.

If the message is actually more appropriate for another day, and I'm at my OS X machine, I add it to my to-do list. Using Things, a single hotkey can create a to-do with a link back to the message. The message itself can then go in the archive. If I'm not on my OS X machine, then the message gets procrastinated until I am.

http://culturedcode.com/things

It actually sounds more complicated than it seems when I'm using it. It's really a matter of scanning unread messages, dealing with the ones I can, and procrastinating the rest. It gives me immediate access to messages but keeps my out-of-sight, out-of-mind brain from losing important but non-urgent messages. I use Mail Act-on to create keyboard shortcuts for archiving and procrastinating messages when I'm on an OS X machine, but I can still perform those tasks manually when I'm on other platforms.

http://www.indev.ca/MailActOn.html

Hope this is useful to someone. I'd be happy to send the AppleScript on request -- there isn't a whole lot to it, but it comes with a few caveats.

Peace...

--Ron


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