43 Folders

Back to Work

Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.

Join us via RSS, iTunes, or at 5by5.tv.

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

Particletree: Excellent email guide roundup

Particletree » A Guide to Email Roundup

Over on the lovely Particletree, Chris Campbell has posted a valuable collection of links for tips on dealing with email.

Email is fantastic. We use it to stay in touch with friends, contact clients, and handle support requests. It’s easy to use, low cost, and less intrusive than a phone call or meeting. But with email being such an integral part of our lives, are we using it as effectively as possible? To find out, have a look at the techniques these articles recommend on ensuring that your messages are read.

What I like about his choices (including, I suppose, the 43f link *blush*) is the focus on _results_. Instead of being about simply the blah-blah-blahs of netiquette and style, these are suggestions on how best to get something accomplished -- and, yeah, sometimes that means just knowing how to keep it standard, simple, and easy to grok. Very good, tactical, battlefield stuff.

I especially dug Kaitlin Duck Sherwoods exhaustive 'Beginner's Guide to Effective Email' (ca. 1995!), which was new to me, and which I do recommend checking out. Even for the veterans out there, it might be useful to read up on kicking it old-school -- from the days when a crap email would earn you a Clinton-era eBitchslap from all the beardy Pine users in your life.

Kaitlin Duck Sherwood's picture

Hey, thanks for the kind...

Hey, thanks for the kind words!

I actually think a few small improvements in email programs would lead to enormous improvements in personal productivity. The keys are realizing:

  • Email messages are to-do items. If nothing else, you have to delete it. For non-spam, you need to at least read it. All others turn into to-do items; if you can't deal with it right now, you need to be able to mark it for future consumption easily. (Similar to how if I get a piece of paper I can't deal with until November 15, I should put it into the November 15 folder.)

  • People won't look in folders other than their inbox. They need to have one place to look at all of their to-do messages.

  • Having a View that groups messages by the social network of the sender can be enormously helpful, since usually you want to be dealing with one group at a time. For example, all your skydiving club mail OR all your work email OR mail from your family. Bonus points if the email program can expand/collapse groups; even more if it can order them according to how important that social network is to you. Put my boss at the top of the inbox; put people I've never corresponded with at the bottom.

  • Indicating how you were addressed (to me and only me, to me and other people, cc me, bcc me, etc) can help you see how urgent a message is. I like color, e.g. red for to-me-and-only-me, down to grey for bcc-me.

In combination with prioritized grouping by sender's network, this can make it really easy to see which messages to pay attention to. Red and at the top? Look at right away. Grey at the bottom of the mailbox? Delete.

  • For most people, most mailing lists are informational: they never turn into action items. Go ahead and move those mailing list messages to a separate folder.

For more on the Perfect Email Client, see





An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


Subscribe with Google Reader

Subscribe on Netvibes

Add to Technorati Favorites

Subscribe on Pageflakes

Add RSS feed

The Podcast Feed


Merlin used to crank. He’s not cranking any more.

This is an essay about family, priorities, and Shakey’s Pizza, and it’s probably the best thing he’s written. »

Scared Shitless

Merlin’s scared. You’re scared. Everybody is scared.

This is the video of Merlin’s keynote at Webstock 2011. The one where he cried. You should watch it. »