Thursday, October 27, 2005

Coping With Email: Is Hope the Only Way Out of Here?

Although I manage to get the number of messages in my primary email Mailbox down to a manageable number every so often, I find as each day goes by that the number of unread and unfiled messages tends to increase inexorably, until I somehow catch a glimpse at the number of messages (over 1500 again!) and wonder at how to get the number down without the email equivalent of my annual end-of-year "sweep whatever's on and under my desk into a binbag" trick.

At one point I read Mark Hurst's Good Experience: E-mail Management Report, Reducing E-mail Overload report, hoping it would tell me things I didn't know (and I have to admit it did prompt me to take another look at my filters), but the fixes didn't work for more than a week or two, and here I am again facing an email overflow...

So when I was pondering this on my drive home yesterday, I realised that a tool that might help me start to clear my mail box, and contribute to it's ongoing management, would be a tool that offered me hope that I was getting my mail under control.

And what is that tool? A simple display of a simple counter, or set of counts, of:

  • number of emails received today/yesterday/this week (let's call this R);
  • number of emails sent today/yesterday/this week (let's call this S);
  • number of emails deleted (D);
  • number of emails filed (F).

If in any given period (R+S) > (D+F), my Mailbox will have an increasing number of messages in it over that period. This is a Bad Thing.

If in any given period (R+S) = (D+F), my Mailbox will be in a steady state. Depending on how many messages are in the Mailbox, this may be a Good Thing or a Bad Thing.

If in any given period (R+S) < (D+F), my Mailbox will have a decreasing number of messages in it over that period. This is a Good Thing.

Colour coding the net increase or decrease of messages in my Mailbox in realtime within the mailbox interface would let me know whether there was any hope in waging a war of attrition against my email clutter, or whether it was once again on the path to overwhelming me.

I mentioned this in passing to my mailadmin, who was taken enough by the idea to consider knocking up a widget for her preferred mail client (OpenText's FirstClass). If that comes to fruition, I'll give it a whirl and let you know how I get on!

PS this was my first blog post made with Flock and it was pleasingly straightforward...apart from the fact that I chose to blog the Good Experience page - which inserted a link into the post that I couldn't easily put text in front of without it being underlined and treated as part of the link... until I right-clicked and found a Discontinue Link option! And the fact that the bullet item button didn;t seem to work properly...


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