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


Inbox Zero: Schedule email dashes

This post is part of the Inbox Zero series.

I've counseled (ad nauseum) on the dangers of leaving your email app set to autocheck more often than every 15 minutes or so. Apart from generating an appalling number of pointless interruptions, persistent autocheck can also condition you into some really weird habits.

Perhaps worst of all, you begin to think of your email program primarily as a delivery and notification system -- a kind of communications slot machine whose hopeful beeping and lightshows habituate you into thinking "just one more pull...."

And, let's be honest. If you've been procrastinating a boring project all afternoon, what could be more attractive than that little "beep" and the possibility that you just got an email from that really cute girl in Finance -- or maybe even got added to some rock star's My Space. It could happen. Better go check!

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Inbox Zero: Delete, delete, delete (or, "Fail faster")

This post is part of the Inbox Zero series.

Do you have a sloppy relationship with the messages in your life? Be honest. Do you tend to see every new email as a virtual hug that must be reciprocated? Do you keep emails in your inbox for weeks or months even though you know in your heart of hearts that you have no intention of ever responding to them? If so, it's dragging you down if you ever hope to hit "zero" in this lifetime. Mentioned briefly yesterday, it bears repeating: delete, my friend. Delete, delete, delete.

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Inbox Zero: Where filters will and won't help

This post is part of the Inbox Zero series.

Filters and scripts can greatly minimize the manual processing you do each day as well as way cut down on unnecessary interruptions. The trouble comes when you're filtering so much stuff (especially via "sender" and "subject" filters) that you end up scattering useful and timely updates into a jillion different places out of view. This can be that rarest of beasts where you've actually automated too much.

Instead, focus on creating filters and scripts for any noisy, frequent, and non-urgent items which can be dealt with all at a pass and later. Depending on what you consider noise, this could probably include:

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TOPICS: Email, Tips

Inbox Zero: Five sneaky email cheats

This post is part of the Inbox Zero series.

In the words of the great Lucas Jackson: "Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand."

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TOPICS: Email, Tricks

Inbox Zero: Articles of faith

This post is part of the Inbox Zero series.

When I first suggested the email DMZ and said there was a way to get your inbox to zero in 20 minutes, I wasn't lying. But I was using a definition of "empty" that may not square with your current conception of the email world. So let's start with a few of my own articles of faith to ensure we're on the same page going forward.

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43F Series: “Inbox Zero”

This post is part of the Inbox Zero series.

43 Folders Series: Inbox Zero

Ever since I posted my suggestion about the email DMZ, I've received a steady stream of requests -- nay, desperate pleas -- to go into more detail on how I take an email inbox from overstuffed to zero and then keep it that way.

Clearly, the problem of email overload is taking a toll on all our time, productivity, and sanity, mainly because most of us lack a cohesive system for processing our messages and converting them into appropriate actions as quickly as possible.

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TOPICS: Admin, Email

Hawk Wings: Me on Mail.app

Hawk Wings » Blog Archive » Talking Mail.app: Merlin Mann

Tim Gaden's been doing a series on various Mac folks' usage of Mail.app. He's talked with folks like John Gruber, Mathowie, and Ethan Schoonover about what they like (and don't) about OS X's default mail application, as well as the ways they'd like to see it improve.

Tim was kind enough to ask me as well, and the results are up at Hawk Wings:

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Recap: Becoming an Email Ninja

Here are a few of my favorite (and the site's most popular) posts on that heated topic of email -- how to better deal with email as a recipient, and how to improve the lives of others as a better sender. Email is a subject that invigorates (and occasionally infuriates) me, so get ready for plenty more in the future. But if you're one of the seemingly innumerable people who's snowed under by email or unsure how to deal with it at a responsible level, flip through a few of these oldies, and see if any ideas jump out at you.

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4-1/2 tiny ways to master Mail.app

Seriously, though, suck it up and just check for new mail as seldom as your job and your patience will possibly permit. Really push the envelope on this, even just for half a day, and see if you don't notice a difference. The world actually can spin without you for a while.

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Fresh Start: The Email DMZ

Like a lot of the best fresh starts, this one's a total psych-out; also, like most of the best ones, you won't believe how well it works until you actually try it for yourself.

  1. Open your email program and create a new folder called "DMZ"
  2. Go to your email inbox and Select All
    • You might alternatively choose all email older than n days
  3. Drag those emails from your inbox into the DMZ folder
  4. Go, and sin no more.
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An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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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

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