E-mail management tricks that will change your life FOREVER

One of the first things that someone told me shortly after I joined Mozilla was:

I wonder how long until you stop reading all the emails we get.

I was like: oh come on, how could you not read your emails?

But then I started to subscribe to bugs, mailing lists and get involved in STUFF, and guess what happened? Lots of emails, and lots of stress because it never ends! And it’s so hard to separate the important stuff, right?

Well, I’m here to share with you my exquisite set of rules for managing email that will totally change your life.

First things first: make folders for mailing lists, and set rules to direct those messages to those folders. You don’t want these things in your inbox.

For example, I have a folder for all bugzilla-related notifications, then various folders for various mailing lists I follow.

A tip on bugzilla: if you use it, you might want to modify a couple of settings so you get less emails:

Bugzilla email settings

Basically I just want to know when I’m assigned or CC’ed to a bug, when it is closed/resolved or when comments or attachments are added. I don’t want to know when someone CC’s themselves, for example.

Create a folder called “LO-PRI” or similar, and set up rules to move there things that you hardly look at, but might want to look at if you finished all your work and were really bored. For example, build notification emails, or very high noise to ratio mailing lists that don’t deserve their own folder. Usually I just look at the subjects for these and quickly delete all.

Now comes the best trick–and this is what changes lives forever:

  1. create a new folder where things that might not be directly relevant to you go. Mine is called “potentially irrelevant”. I know, that name is amusing. Brings me to giggles every time I see it.
  2. set up a new rule where anything that doesn’t have your email in the To: field goes to this sort of catch-up folder

In my case the rule is “anything that doesn’t contain my email address, or my alias, or my team email address”, so change accordingly.

Once you’ve built all this complex system of filters and rules you should end up with a way leaner inbox, and can actually use it to keep track of things that need to be done, instead of spending half of your day managing your inbox.

And if this filtering isn’t aggressive enough for you, there’s always…

DELETE

Delete.
Delete.
Delete.
Delete. Delete. Delete.

One thought on “E-mail management tricks that will change your life FOREVER

  1. To complete your recommendations about email reading. There is the counterpart on how to write good emails.

    A talk I had done a very long time ago about managing emails.
    http://www.la-grange.net/2014/03/04/You-Got-Mail.pdf
    The same In French with explanation
    http://la-grange.net/2014/03/04/bien-gerer-mail

    Fwiw, I do not have an inbox. All my incoming mail goes to the dated folder of the moment. So this month *all* my mails goes to /2014/06. My inbox has by design 0 mail. It doesn’t exist.

    So how do I do? Instead of filtering into hard folders, I create dynamic contexts (or smart folders if you prefer) which are aggregation of emails according to certain criteria. For example, I have a smart folder which is mail where

    * my email is in To: or Cc:,
    * AND less than 3 weeks old

    So I’m sure that in this dynamic folder there will be only mails directly address to me.

    For notifications, I have rules such as “any mails from blah, mark it as READ.”

    I have plenty of other types of dynamic rules. I do not have to delete any emails, I can destroy or create contexts without erasing emails and I accumulate little by little a very useful database of knowledge.

    The first rule is not read emails.
    The second rule is to read emails where you are in To: or Cc: (except for notifications)

    Ah also… for services, when possible create a specific address.
    So instead of foo@example.com, you can create foo+twitter@example.com, It becomes easier to filter and it helps with companies leaking your email to spammers.

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