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Inbox Who Cares — How I manage my email

October 5th, 2010 2 notes

Gmail’s latest iteration on their fabulous webmail service, Priority Inbox, has opened a whole new world of email management for me. I was never very good at Inbox Zero, as much as I like the theory.

I know the idea was to spend as little time as possible dealing with email, but even the time it would take to delete, manage, and archive emails was too much for me. YES, some emails are not even important enough for me to spend the energy it takes to target my mouse pointer over the little checkbox next to the title in the list and then point to the “delete” button. EVEN THAT IS TOO MUCH EFFORT.

I don’t get so many emails that I always need to tag them or put them in special folders. I can scan the list and deduce from the sender and subject line whether I want to read them or not.

Apparently, the magic gmail genie can do this too. With priority inbox enabled, it does a surprisingly good job of putting the emails I would have wanted to open and read in a special section at the top of my inbox, called “important and unread”. I don’t have to do anything. It’s amazing. And if it makes the wrong choice, I can easily educate it so it will choose right next time. IT IS AWESOME. (Note: I have not been paid to write this. Though I wouldn’t turn down such an offer in the future.)

The rest of the emails I get throughout the day are easy for me to scan and make sure nothing’s getting missed. Once I’ve done that, I never look below the line again. I leave them unread, unarchived, undealt with, who cares. These emails are not important. Once I scan them and choose not to read them, I don’t want to spend another second thinking about them. SO I DON’T. BAM! It’s so efficient!

All I have to think about are the emails in the Priority Inbox section, which only stay there if unread. Once I read them, if I want them to stay above the “who cares” pit of nothingness, I can star them. Or I can tag them, label them, put them in a folder, whatever works. Or I just reply and understand that they will float back up again if the conversation continues.

Gmail marks the unread count appropriately for this system. I can ignore how many emails I leave unread in the regular old inbox (current count: 102), but pay attention when I have two emails unread in the Priority Inbox. (That almost always is at zero.)

One other thing I do, which may or may not work for someone else: When I subscribe to a mailing list or get a newsletter or promotion, I set up auto filters to filter those emails into folders so they never even reach my inbox. I sort of forget about them most of the time. But I can go back and scan through if I feel like I’m missing out.

Email shouldn’t be a chore. I am rebelling against the idea of email management while still managing to get through all my emails just fine. I read everything I need to. I haven’t missed anything yet. I keep expecting it all to come crashing down, but so far, it just hasn’t. So, who cares?

photo of Sarah A blog full of thoughts and observations on making the web a better place, collected by Sarah Harrison.

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