Practical Email Management
Email is an amazing invention. I remember the early days of email. The arrival of a new message was so celebrated that AOL would announce it with an enthusiastic "You've got mail!". We thought that messaging was solved and looked forward to a world where mail was free and contacting someone was easy.
Fast forward 30+ years and email is no longer associated with joy. Hundreds of emails can arrive in your inbox before the day even begins. Notifications can be so distracting that we often just turn them off and if we don't, we are in constant catch up mode with a deluge of emails keeping us under water. It is not uncommon to have an inbox that has over 30,000 emails waiting to be read.
With the ubiquity of email and the opening of the global internet, we need to deal with an increasing set of problems beyond just the volume. While it is true that information overload can lead to stress, decreased satisfaction and reduced productivity, unsolicited email can also include malware and security attacks like email spoofing and phishing (1).
After spending most of my adult life dealing with this, I decided to take some action to regain control of my email. Through some trial and error, I discovered the power of Gmail search queries. By ignoring my inbox, I experienced more satisfaction by setting up a set of search queries bookmarked in my browser that would show me unread emails that I was actually interested in.
This was so successful, that I decided to expand upon it such that it became transparent and available on all my email clients.
Let me tell you exactly how I did it.
Cherry Picking Method
The first step is to divert all emails to a folder that will hold all received emails. This folder is not the inbox.
Results: No emails go to my inbox directly
Create a list of search queries that find emails that are important.
Results: This gives the reader full control
Run a script on a timed interval that searches for emails matching search parameters and moves them into the inbox.
Results: This leverages email clients' inbox feature to read the truly important emails
Inbox volume is greatly decreased
Inbox delight is increased because only emails you are searching for will appear
Spam can be totally eliminated
Email spoofing is easily blocked (with good queries)
I've very easy to triage emails using techniques like Inbox Zero