43 Folders

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43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

My email diet

GmaillikeI love using Gmail, but until it works with my über IMAP acount, I wouldn't seriously consider switching over.

Still, Gmail's made me see the value of having very few actual folders for storing new and archived mail. It makes it much easier to track and organize your mail on the fly, plus Google's search and labeling tools let you confidently shunt items out of your inbox constantly without fear of having stuff disappear. So I decided to try a little experiment.

I took all the messages I had in almost 50 nested IMAP directories (what can I say: I grew up on Eudora) and threw them into a single new "archive"? folder. So far, it’s working great. Here’s my flow:

  1. Mail arrives in the "Inbox"?
    • I read each message
    • If it needs only a fast response, I bang it out
    • If it doesn’t need a response, I just keep on moving
    • If it needs a more detailed response or a followup, I flag it (like a star in Gmail), and capture any associated TODOs in my big txt list
  2. I process the inbox
    • flagged messages go into "@flag"? to be monitored for followup
    • read but unflagged messages get dragged into "archive"?
  3. I then return to the "@flag"? box throughout the day to complete hot items or unflag and move expired ones to "archive."?

It’s simple, super-fast, and keeps my inbox what it should be—a bare receptacle for holding unprocessed stuff.

It also really simplifies the multiple mailbox selections needed to show threads correctly. Instead of having to grab all those nested folders, I just need to select three or four now.

The two things that are not very Gmail-like about this, of course, are the search quality (come on, Spotlight!) and the missing neato labeling (I never thought I’d actually miss Entourage).

So we’ll see how well this ages and scales over time, but so far it seems like a go.

How do you process your mail? Any killer tips?

Derek's picture

Man, I would really love...

Man, I would really love to use Yahoo like this. They just bought Oddpost, so hopefully that will be a boost. Any advice on using Yahoo to utilize the principles of GTD? I just can't pull myself away to another app. Am I therefore DOOMED!?




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