Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Filtered tastes better

A few months ago, Mike Arthur made a passing mention about the merits of using email filters. This was, of course, during a (slightly geeky) face-to-face conversation. I'd filed that mention for future reference and we carried on putting the world to rights.

I filed it because my outside-of-employer email was a mess.

What kind of mess?

Since getting more into new media, the volume of email I was getting was becoming unbearable. Twitter, Facebook, Ning, LinkedIn, Flickr and blog comments all notifying me that the world had something to say. All vying for my attention. It was noisy. As well as all that social *stuff*, there were newsletters, group updates, subscriber offers - oh and email from people too. And I was having to spend time sorting it all out. And not getting very much done.

You get from all that was I keen on doing this whole thing more efficiently.

What did I do?

Mike's mail client of choice was GMail - as was mine. Also, it's worth mentioning that I'd set a few rules up in Lotus Notes for employer-related email, so understood the concept - but had never transferred it to my non-employer stuff. It's odd how we can do that sometimes!

So, to get started, I simply logged into GMail, looked at my inbox, selected a message and started to create rules. It's pretty simple in GMail - just select "More Options" > "Filter messages like these" and set the parameters for the filter. It'll even ask you if you want to do this retrospectively too. I filtered Notifications from various services into specific folders like this:

For content that I want to try and read every day, I created a "reading" folder. Others, like newsletters and offers I might only read once every few days.

The beauty of this for me is that GMail on my G1 uses the same labels (as it's accessing the same mail files) so I can read the content on the move and take action there & then.

Then what?

After trying this for a few days, I found it worked. I wasn't checking my phone every 15 minutes when a notification or some other email was received. There was (at least the illusion of) control.

So I did another couple of things as well. I have a .mac account, but it's lacking the feature set of GMail so I now pull in my .mac email to GMail. That has a folder of it's own, but also filters regularly received content into relevant folders.

I also unsubscribed to a few newsletters and updates that I simply didn't need. Gone. And not missed.

A huge advantage is with notifications for flickr & Facebook. If I've checked into these services and seen the updates on the web interface, I can simply select all and delete. Easy. If I've not checked in, I can quickly see if there's anything needing responded to or at least acknowedged without having to log in. I guess that feels more efficient that it reads (!).

Last thing I did was decide to move all my email from the folders on my Powerbook into GMail. Yep, all email is now stored centrally and accessed via IMAP. This means it's all accessible on the move, so if there's an invoice from 2006 I need to pull up, I can do that.

So JB, there you go, some thoughts on what I've done to clear up email

A quick search tonight unearthed this useful blog post too.

That's what worked for me - what's your experience been? Do you have other methods? Let me know!

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