Sunday, November 13, 2005

Chat Mail

Every four or five months I clear out my email Mailbox, vowing as I do so that I will put some of the recommendations made in Mark Hurst's Managing Incoming Email management report and not let things get so bad ever again. (My email count last week was about 1600 messages, down to 18 today.)

Here are some nuggets:

The correct way to measure e-mail load is by the message count, or the number of e-mails currently sitting in the inbox. While message volume shows how much more e-mail users have to manage than yesterday, message count shows the total number of e-mails that are currently loading the user. A user who gets 100 messages a day may not be overloaded at all, if their message count is low; conversely, a user who gets ten e-mails a day may indeed be overloaded.

From this, the key recommendation to managing email follows straightforwardly:

Keep the inbox empty. In other words, clear out incoming e-mails before they pile up too high in the inbox. Delete most of them, file some of them (in mail folders or elsewhere), but most importantly, get them all out of the inbox before they really begin to pile up. Keep the inbox empty.

One thing I know from my own bitter experience is that I use all sorts of reasons to justify why I keep my Mailbox cluttered. These are succintly summarised in a section on The Misused Mailbox:

People often use the inbox for several purposes it was never intended for:
  • To-do list. Users often keep action items and other “to-dos” in the inbox. This is perhaps the most common misuse.

  • Filing system. Meeting notes, project status messages, attachments containing proposals and other important documents stay in the inbox, instead of going to a proper project folder.

  • Calendar. Dates and times for meetings, conference calls, or other events pile up in the inbox.

  • Bookmarks list. E-mails are kept that contain pointers to websites and other applications. Usernames and passwords may be in these messages as well.

  • Address book. Messages containing phone numbers and postal addresses of contacts may stay in the inbox instead of being entered into an actual address book.

There is another reason I'm aware of that contributes to my email overload, and that's not always deleting messages I reply to, or deleting throwaway messages I have sent. (You know the sort of thing - one liners saying 'thanks for that', or 'coffee?' - things that should be consigned to instant messaging - only I don't use IM, and neither do a lot fo people I know).

So this is where chat mail comes in. Chat mail is mail that is purely throwaway and conversational. To handle chat mail I would like a couple of new buttons in my email (Gmail?) client:

1) 'Reply and Delete' - if I take this option, I generate a reply to the current message, and when I send that reply the message I am replying to gets deleted.

2) 'Send and Delete' - when I take this option, send the current message and then delete it from my mailbox.



Blogger Ashley Shaun said...

its a very useful MailBox for A user who gets 100 messages a day may not be overloaded at all.

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