Over the last few months I’ve taken some serious steps toward getting my e-mail under control. There are a few things that have worked very well for me and I’d like to share them with you.

* Keep your inbox empty. You may already do this, and if so, you now how hard it can be, but this is key to managing you e-mail.
* Set your inbox to check for new messages only a few times a day. Those pesky notifications can really get into your focus.
* Take harsh measures against spam. I had to have my host (Dreamhost) hook me up with an agressive spam filter to actually make a significant cut into the amount of spam I’d been getting. Sure I risk losing a few mails, but I think it’s worth it. They also provide me with a nice weekly (I think) summary of all the junk they blocked.
* Move mailing lists, listservs and such to a new e-mail address. Gmail is very good for this.
* Make liberal use of the “delete” key. Get those old, unused messages out of the way. More on deleting to get things done.

So, there you have it. 5 easy tips to being more productive with e-mail. Anyone else have any they’d like to add?

12 Comments on 5 Quick E-mail Tips

  1. Filter emails. To me, having multiple email addresses makes more of a mess of things. Filters can take an hour or two to setup the first time, but once they’re in place you can easily see what you received and make a quick judgement as to what needs to be read right now.

    For those who have access to a dedicated server and their own mail server, maildrop works great and is already integrated with qmail via qmailrocks.org. If you’re like most of us though, and just have your mail client, Thunderbird has a great filtering system.

    Through the filtering system that I have, I only have a dozen or so messages that actually make it to my Inbox.

  2. monkeyinabox says:

    The one that kills me at work is other people who have no problem putting emails in the trash, but then never delete it and actually use it as a file cabinet. I’ve learned that rather than cringing every time I see someone else look for an email in that method, I try to show them better ways of doing it.

    Getting your inbox empty doesn’t really have to take that long either. I did this long before reading GTD, and found it essential in helping with incoming SPAM (which now is less of an issue with Mailwasher and filters). I actually file my old email into a mass “file cabinet” so to speak, because I love the ability to search for old messages if I need to retrace the past. A big hard drive makes this a moot isuue, but Google mail can work that way as well. I love having mailing lists saved that way so that I can establish a personal reference point for information. I simply create a folder in my email client and automatically filter these messages to goto those folders.

    Unfortunately I can’t set my email to not check fairly often with the office using it for a lot of communication that can’t be ignored completely.

  3. Joseph Allen says:

    I’ve been using GMail for while, and designed a simple tool for myself to quickly send a note or thought to myself. A few other liked it, so I expanded on it a bit and it’s now available. It allows you to send an email to yourself, but attach a label to it. For GMail users, it utilizes the + sign feature that GMail supports. For non-GMail users, it adds the label to the end of the messages.

    In both cases of course, when you have filters or rules setup, you automatically organize what you send to yourself.

    This is useful for people who do not stay logged into their email accounts, for for whatever reason, are not able to login to their email accounts (for example, some businesses prevent access to some web mail email providers).

    Check it out at http://www.ewizmo.com


    Joe at ewizmo.com

  4. Brian says:

    A tip for sending. If you are sending a small Call Me, or Meeting at Noon email that doesn’t need opening. Make the subject line:

    Call Me
    Meeting at 12:00
    Noon Lunch Cancelled

    saves time from having to open it and see the same thing or nothing in there.

  5. Brian says:

    I stripped what it thought was tag.

    So Subjects should be:

    Call Me <eom>
    Meeting at 12:00 <eom>
    Noon Lunch Cancelled <eom>

  6. mahalie says:

    43 Folders has a good post on this. I think that’s where I picked up the Managing Incoming Email report by Mark Hurst. I printed that out at the office and hung it by the copier, it’s so good. My life has been vastly improved since implementing it at work and home. Now I just wish that I could use Gmail at work!

  7. Tris Hussey says:

    I used to try to clean out my inbox often and file all the e-mails. The problem was finding stuff that I needed later. I stopped sorting when I found LookOut for Outlook, then once I switched to Thunderbird Copernic Desktop Search does the job. I just make sure I delete newsletters and other e-mails that really aren’t ever needed again and then just leave the rest. Yeah, my inbox might be massive, but I know that everything is there.

    Strange, but it works.

  8. Erik says:

    I like vFolders in Evolution. Instead of actually moving email to different folders I can keep all of my mailing lists in one folder and have it create a vFolder, which looks like a folder but is actually a search for the criteria specified. I can sort by anything that a filter can be set up for.

    Then for the high volume mailing lists I have them set to delete after 48 hours. There’s no sense in keeping those longer than that.

    I also have a few separate email accts. – one for email lists, one for signups, a totally personal one, and one thats professional. That way when I’m travelling I don’t have to shift through pages of mailing lists to get to the email I need.

  9. Jerome says:

    5 great tips.

    The different e-mail accounts and the “” are indeed very useful too.

  10. Drowning in email?

    It’s depressed to scroll endlessly through your Inbox. Clear it out at the end of each day – delete those messages you that you know you’ll never respond to.

  11. pantrygirl says:

    an NRSVP at the end of your message that does not need a response works great too.
    I hate getting one word emails like. “ok.” or “thanks.”

    Also, if your software allows you to create rules to move your mail to designated folders use it.

    That way you can read the mail for your high priority projects first.

Leave a Reply