an empty inbox: not just an urban legend


there was this one time i really did have an empty inbox. and, no, it wasn’t when i opened my gmail account. a few years ago, in the days when i could actually get time off of work, i spent the vacation between christmas and new years whittling away at my email. i took a screen shot of the amazing results, but i’m sure it’s been lost somewhere along the way.

i’ve heard that some people live that way. it comes mostly from amy when she squeals in terror if she catches a glimpse of my mail screen. (these screen shots might kill her.)

you see, i believe that my inbox is packed with inspiration and opportunity. truth be told, it is! i have a hard time deleting emails that i haven’t gotten around to reading for fear of missing something great in one of them. however… i saw on a tv show recently (consumed, i think it might have been) that even though something is bought and paid for, it may still be costing you in productivity if it gets in the way of you doing your work efficiently. bell: ringing. message received.

this runs along the same lines as my usual end of the year goals and is what i am focusing on at home as well. over the next few days, i’m going to work on decluttering, ridding myself of excess and of the things i’ve outgrown and tidying up in general. if you soon get a reply to an email you sent months ago, this may explain it! 😉


13 responses »

  1. I have *extensive*, *huge* amounts of filters which enables me to control the mess. I cannot fathom nor make sense of how people simply have gigantic inboxes with no organization — I’d miss so much if I did that. Both inboxes are <50 emails, and by now (10:17am on a work day) I've read everything of import and both email boxes have everything marked read. (Typical day.) And that's with about ~300-400 emails/day inbound.

      • Because of Gmail’s braindead way of handling and organizing mail, it’s a bit difficult to explain, but I’ll give it a shot. If you want to get on the phone and have me remote-view your desktop to show you in person, just let me know and I’ll be happy to do so.

        What would be a “folder” in any sane program is, in Gmail, a “label”. So, the first thing to do is on the left, create a bunch of labels that you want to organize your email under — “Boytoy”, “Inspriational Stuff”, “Mr. Totally-Awesome Pralle”, etc.

        Next, click on any message in your Inbox and, after it’s displayed on your screen, go to the right-hand dropdown menu (for actions) and choose, “Filter messages like this”. The filter screen will pop up with some pre-filled details about the message, but you can enter others/change what is there, as you like, and as fits the message. MOST I can filter on “from” address, but sometimes you have to do by Subject (or part Subject), etc. Then click on “Create filter with this search” (more bullshit terminology)

        Under “When a message arrives that matches this search:”, mark at least, “Apply the label” and choose the corresponding label you want. Other options under that menu may also apply, but you’ll have to decide what. Then click to create the label — while you’re at it, you might as well also click the, “Also apply this label to the XXX inbox emails…” or whatever it says, so it runs against your current Inbox.

        Repeat ad nauseum until things go the right directions most times, and anything in your inbox ends up as something truly outrageous (GEM: Truly, Truly Outrageous).

        Outlook has its own filtering, which I also use extensively, located under Tools (well, depends on which version you are using….2003, it’s under Tools. 2007/2010 you have to locate it under something that looks like a child’s pacifier or similar user interface designed by Fischer-Price. I don’t have that in front of me, so I can’t guide on that one.)

      • That’s awesome, Mr. Totally-Awesome Pralle! I’d used labels for grouping emails, but never for filtering them. Duh. That would have been using the next 5% of Gmail’s capacity and, well, that just wasn’t on. Thank you!! (I’ll let you know when I’m ready for step two.)

        If you prefer something other than Gmail, was is it?

        • I use Outlook for work (because I must) and Thunderbird for personal email, whose filtering options are very easy to use. You could, in theory, do that with your Gmail account (Gmail supports IMAP, which allows you to use 3rd party applications with your Gmail), but not everyone grooves to that move, so to speak.

        • Nope, not web-based, installable local client. Free, available for PC/Mac/Linux, but not web-based. Basically I have no need for web-based email — my iPhone takes care of letting me read mail when mobile and then when I sit down, I turn on Thunderbird and it syncs all email from my server and organizes it per my filters in the various boxes I have, taking care of my organization issues.

          But…each to their own and own situation, what I use doesn’t work for other situations, I’m sure. But it’s interesting to know what people do to work with such things, I think.

  2. Well. Let’s just say I’ve become accustomed to the ‘look’ of your inbox, although I don’t think I will ever understand it. But that’s okay. That’s who you are and who I am. What really kills me, are the people at work that have hundreds of UNread emails in the INBOX on a constant basis. I’m with Nathan, how do they ever get anything done? To me, if it’s in my inbox it means it still needs ‘action required’ by me in one way or another. If it’s filed (for work) means I will want to refer to it later for something important or history purposes..

    If it’s personal email..i save stuff I will need for tracking purposes (orders) but delete once I physically receive it.. or flight info.. reservations…etc.. but as soon as trip is completed, DELETE it goes.

    I use GMAIL filters for incoming daily emails like Groupon, newsletters, etc and put them into separate labels. Love that.. so if I want to go see what’s going on in either.. they’re in one happy spot.. not jumbled together with a bunch of other stuff.

    However, I’d venture to guess the amount of personal email you receive is far greater than what I pull in. But I can’t really complain, you’re always prompt in responding to me! 🙂

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