How to handle large email loads
There was an quite interesting article in the New Scientist, that I found out about via 43folders. It basically says, that email and letter writing share some fundamental pattern, that can also be found in the correspondence of Einstein and Darwin. The author of the study, Albert-László Barabási, had to sustain quite some flak, as he apparently mistook the log-normal distribution of the data for one based on the power law.
However, still an interesting read.
One way to deal with overflowing Inboxes is using the metholody proposed by David Allen in his book „Getting Things Done”. Regarding the Inbox, it basically says „do it or schedule it”. You can find more information on GTD, as it is called by its „followers” eg. on Merlin Manns 43Folders.
GTD wants to get you in the position, that you have an empty Inbox, with all your work either done or scheduled/tasked and all reference material neatly stowed away in a storage system (could be paper, folders on the harddrive, folders in your mail-application).
What I found funny is, that there is also a technical reason for keeping your Inbox empty – at least in Lotus Notes. An article on IBMs developerworks I found via Ed Brill shows, that an (nearly) empty Inbox speeds up the opening of your Inbox and also puts less strain on your server. I never was a friend of this „keep it all in the Inbox” idea, vowe, Nick Shelness or Rael Dornfest are so keen about. I still file my mails into different folders – thanks to Notes’ fulltext index and all documents view, I can find them within seconds. And with „DiscoverFolders” in Notes 7, I can even find out, into which folder I put them.
Here’s how to subscribe to mailing lists with a combined total posts of 2000 or more per day, and live. It’s all about pattern recognition.
Threaded mail readers such as mutt sort emails into a tree based on which emails are replies to other emails. The mail index displays this tree of messages with the author of each indicated. Since the Subject field rarely changes, mutt does not display it unless the thread’s subject changes. Combining these elements of author names, thread trees, and occasional subject changes produces patterns that the brain can use to quickly identify important and useless sets of mail messages, without actually reading anything, and without resorting to complicated and fragile killfile and scoring systems.
Quite a catchy idea. My personal problem is, that I use Lotus Notes and the integrated calendar/tasklist for all my business needs and Pegasus Mail is my personal email companion since the early nineties. I have mastered Pegasus Mails Features to a 98% or so. Retraining my „fingermacros” for mutt would take quite some time out of my valuable „available time” budget and right now I am not willing to invest that.
But the idea is quite captivating and I will surely keep it in mind.