Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?

Hoarders vs. Deleters- What Your Inbox Says 328

BlueCup writes "You are your inbox. Take a clear-eyed look at how you answer or file each email. Notice what you choose to keep or delete. Consider your anxiety when your inbox is jammed with unanswered messages. The makeup and tidiness of your inbox is a reflection of your habits, your mental health and, yes, even the way Mom and Dad raised you." I always knew my obsessive packratting said something important about me as a human being.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Hoarders vs. Deleters- What Your Inbox Says

Comments Filter:
  • by yagu ( 721525 ) * <> on Thursday August 10, 2006 @07:12PM (#15885300) Journal

    And I did (and still do) fit the clutter definition. I currently have about 1500 gmails, and I long ago stopped paying much care to them other than scanning and letting go. Google takes care of the rest.

    I have on file (old computers, old e-mail clients (elm, pine, thunderbird, on and on)) about 15 to 20 thousand e-mails, and it's always been a dilemma what to keep and what to throw away. What to deem important and what to forget. Ultimately I wrote my own software to manage my e-mail, wrote an inverted index machine (more than ten years ago, and did it as a shell script(!)). That took care of most of my needs and certainly surpassed the features of any e-mail clients at the time.

    But with that system I had the added anxiety of modifying/creating/maintaining my home-grown e-mail management software. Sigh.

    Now, with gmail, most of the features I needed (but not all) are provided and implemented much better than I ever did. If I can remember just one or two words from an important e-mail, it's almost always enough to retrieve the desired note using gmail index. I don't even bother marking things as important. If they're important, they come up.

    From the article: In Greensboro, N.C., Internet consultant Wally Bock keeps his inbox down to a manageable few dozen messages. He credits his sense of order to "having disciplined parents who made that a value." . YOu don't have to do this anymore with gmail. There is virtually no difference between e-mail that is "there", or "archived". Of course there is a difference if it is deleted, but why bother? For most users, gmail gives enough storage to not need to distinguish between throwing something away or keeping it.

    Also from the article: A saner way to pare down an inbox is to move email into folders, by subject or need for follow-up, and once a week set aside time for inbox housekeeping. Again, with gmail, not necessary! If you can remember a few key words, you're golden!

    And, I wonder at this recommendation from an "expert" in the article: University of Toronto instructor Christina Cavanagh studied hundreds of office workers for her book "Managing Your Email: Thinking Outside the Inbox." One of her subjects, a finance executive, had 10,000 emails in his inbox. She advised him to simply delete the oldest 9,000. Insane! And dangerous! Let Google manage that, and avoid the risk of "suffering the consequences" for stupid management techniques.

    Since I've "switched", my e-mail life has been virtually stress free, and how and what I manage with e-mail has improved my day to day management of communications dramatically. This is close to life (in e-mail) as it should be.


    • by MustardMan ( 52102 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @07:27PM (#15885378)
      I don't understand what is unique to gmail here. You're saying you can find any message by searching for keywords - so can just about any modern mail client. I do this all the time in, and my emails aren't being scanned to present advertisements to me. Am I missing something here?
      • Am I missing something here?

        Convenient email backup, access from anywhere, combined chats and emails, labels, an excellent spam filter and the best email interface (IMO) (I prefer it over thunderbird, which is nice too .. havnt really used so cant comment on that)

        But I find search to be a ittle disappointing in Gmail, there is no spell checker , no suggested words, no word splitter /combiner .. all those things which we take for granted in google searches.
        • by DeadPrez ( 129998 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @09:31PM (#15885936) Homepage
          I don't know why the parent is modded so high when it has a major factual inaccuracy, namely a dictionary/word suggester. Yup, it could use some help and not care that words like "internet" don't need to be capitalized but that's neither here nor there.

          Gmail = labels/filters + basically unlimited disk usage + search = My best experience with email since 1996. And I install Exchange for a (partial) living. shhh
      • by MBCook ( 132727 ) <> on Thursday August 10, 2006 @07:55PM (#15885524) Homepage

        Am I missing something here?


        You are using and Spotlight (I do too) so you don't think gmail is so amazing.

        But if you were to use another e-mail client for a while (AOL, Outlook, etc) you would realize just how TERRIBLE the average e-mail program's search ability is. It just doesn't work that well. Often, they search by (seemingly) walking though the e-mails one by one. Thus when you have 1000 e-mails searches take 10x as long as when you have 100. If you were to try to search through my backed e-mail (2-3 years) it would take a LONG time. Compare this to a fraction of a second to do the same with Spotlight (or gmail).

        The live results and updates that Spotlight gives is what makes it so powerful.

        • Not only does outlook search by walking one at a time, it starts with the oldest e-mail first.

          That pisses me off to know end, and I'd love to know how to fix it.

          I keep every non-spam e-mail I receive because it makes my inbox a datastore that I can mine later on. It has helped me out of technical jams, reminded me of forgotten information, and saved my ass in a lawsuit. But every e-mail I receive at work (I'm forced to use outlook at work) makes it take that much longer to find the bit of data I need, which
          • Can you cite a source for this? Versions effected? I am on Outlook 2003. It doesn't seem to search strictly by date. It seemed to start with month old stuff, work forward to today and then go backward in time. Bizzare, actually. I know Groupwise has a search engine that pulls stuff up that you did not searh for (and leaves off exact hits for some strange reason). But I don't recall ever having a problem with Outlook.
          • by barthrh2 ( 713909 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @09:26PM (#15885923)
            Check out copernic desktop. Adds Spotlight-like searching to everything, including email. I prefer the seamlessness of spotlight, but like the previews in Copernic. Plus, it's be best choice on Windows.
        • Uh? My Thunderbird holds about 1000 emails, yet the realtime search function (as in "filter while I type") is very realtime indeed. Maybe you're right, saying search time takes 10x as long as when I had 100: 10 x 0 sec = 0 sec.
    • I'm sort of the same way. I keep all my e-mail (that I don't actively want to see) in a set of folder for mostly historical reasons (I like being organized, and dumping it all in one huge folder would annoy me). The main folders are:

      • School Stuff - I just graduated, but all school e-mails went in there
      • Important Passwords - Passwords I may need to look up
      • Job Search - I'm looking for a job so all job correspondence goes there
      • Letters - Letters from friends
      • Old Mail - Miscellaneous

      Now the last one contain

      • Important Passwords

        Those should really be stored as 'secure notes' in your keychain. That way at least they're stored encrypted and it requires your keychain password to get them.

        • sure this should better read "casual passwords", like those used for posting on random forums and stuff like that. still better than using the one-passwords-fits-all approach.

          but it goes beyond casual passwords if you use something like GPG: what would be a safer place for your passwords than an encrypted email to yourself locked behind your GPG secret key and passphrase?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I agree, manually sorting your email is not something we should be doing in the 21st century.

      I have about 40,000 emails from the last 3 years of work. If anyone seriously expects me to manually move those to some folder they have another thing coming. If they expect me to delete them, they don't understand the value of an information archive.

      For the outlook users out there:

      I've found the free LookOut search plugin for outlook to be pretty good, especially since it can search my huge archive folders. I used
    • Christ, does it wash your car and give you blowjobs also? It's just webmail.
    • by pipingguy ( 566974 ) * on Thursday August 10, 2006 @10:11PM (#15886152)
      I have on file [...] about 15 to 20 thousand e-mails, and it's always been a dilemma what to keep and what to throw away.

      I'm a Windows user, so that particular problem is taken care of for me every couple of years whether I like it or not.
  • by Kawolski ( 939414 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @07:15PM (#15885312)
    Full of spam? :(
  • by khasim ( 1285 ) <> on Thursday August 10, 2006 @07:15PM (#15885313)
    Let's take people from two different extremes and generalize statements about non-extreme people from that.

    I have 1,215 messages in my inbox and all of them have been answered. I keep them because it's a "paper trail" for when someone asks me about it again in 6 months.
    • by eln ( 21727 ) * on Thursday August 10, 2006 @07:20PM (#15885339)
      Exactly. I keep work-related emails forever, and archive them to separate folders every few months. I tend to clean out personal emails on a fairly regular basis, though.
    • I do the same thing. Except every six to twelve months, I move all the emails to a different folder. I have most of them going back several years.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      The size of your inbox says a lot more about the tools you use to manage your mail.

      I think the main thing a large inbox tells about a user is that he uses tools capable of working easily against a large inbox.

      With reasonable tools (imap if you keep them on the server, and good search indexes on the client) 50,000 emails isn't unmanageable. With tools that suck (pop if you keep them on the server) an inbox of 100 gets ugly.
      I have almost(*) all the email I've ever received since 1986 or so; organized in two m
    • by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @07:34PM (#15885415) Homepage
      I have 1,215 messages in my inbox and all of them have been answered. I keep them because it's a "paper trail" for when someone asks me about it again in 6 months.

      That's nothing. I literally have 12,000+ messages in my inbox at home, and anybody who hasn't received a response from one of them isn't going to get one.

      The reason I keep them is simple. In this digital age, it's the only record I have of my correspondence with a great many people -- some of it memorable, some of it totally frivolous. Think about it: The only record. Have you ever noticed those six-volume collected editions of the letters of famous writers? Well, I and you might never be that important, but even if we were, guess what? Nobody writes letters anymore. Unless you do something to hang onto it, anything you spirit away into the Internet ether is essentially gone for good.

      So why not hang onto it? There's all kinds of stuff in that inbox. It's a paper trail, sure ... but it's also a crate full of opportunities acted upon or otherwise, phone numbers I forgot to write down elsewhere, copies of old files, heck, even plain old memories. Why take the time to sort through it all and decide what's what, when the entire archive can be zipped onto a keychain USB drive in less than a minute, and even the most basic email client can search out anything I want to find in the whole stack in a few seconds?

      Clearly this jerk is just another typical psychologist, willing to say anything to keep the Thetans trapped in my body.

      P.S. Oh, for the record, that email client is Thunderbird. 12,000 messages and counting, works just fine. Beat that, Outlook.

    • by Bonker ( 243350 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @08:18PM (#15885630)
      This behavior has saved my bacon more times than I care to count.

      Boss: "So, why didn't you inform executive A that we were going to cut over the website this week."

      Me: "I did, a few months ago, I think. I remember talking to her on the phone."

      Boss: "She's swearing up and down that she's never heard anything about it."

      Me: "Bullshit." (When said to your boss, you'd BETTER damn well be able to put your money where your mouth is.)

      Boss: "This is a pretty big deal. It came up in the executive briefing. Do you have an email trail or anything?"

      Me: "Yeah. Let me send you all the related emails. (*clickity-click*) There you go. Looks like we talked about it in May. I'm sorry she's bugging you about it."

      Boss: "Don't worry about it. This is no longer our problem."
  • My Inbox (Score:5, Funny)

    by peterfa ( 941523 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @07:18PM (#15885325)
    My inbox is full of ads for a bigger penis, to get chicks, to make lots of money, etc. I wonder what this says about me. :/
  • Me vs. My Parents (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MBCook ( 132727 ) <> on Thursday August 10, 2006 @07:18PM (#15885329) Homepage

    Myself, I'm a hoarder with organization. I save EVERY email somewhere (except for spam which gets cleared out once and a while). Things get filed away as soon as possible. I read it, then I file it. The exceptions are the things I want kept at my attention. Open orders, ongoing discussions, and the last letter from a select friend or two are always in there. If I'm done with it, it's filed. I'd have mail going back 6 or 7 years if it wasn't for a hard drive crash. As it is, it only goes back about 2 or 3.

    Now the thing I finder interesting is my parents. They use AOL and are self taught. I've been moving them over to gmail but their habits have stayed with them.

    The thing you have to understand is that AOL has this really queer behavior where if you've read an e-mail, it will delete it. If you read an e-mail and then leave AOL, it gets moved somewhere. After that, it quickly gets deleted automatically. I'm not sure why they do this, but it is the behavior I've seen. So if you want to keep an e-mail, you have two options. You can save it somewhere in another folder (which they do sometimes), or you can click "keep as new" (marks the message unread). So anything they think they'll read again gets marked "keep as new". This means they always have "new" mail. They can't look and see "I have 2 new messages" because they are ALL new messages (so they would have to remember the previous number).

    But by and large they are deleters. When they are done with an e-mail unless they think they have a good reason to save it, they just let it get deleted (or recently they have been speeding it up by pressing delete).

  • I get roughly 5-10 personal e-mails on a daily basis in my gmail inbox(not including responses). I keep every e-mail. I respond to most. It keeps a trail of what has been said and done so 2 years later when someone asks if you have that program that they sent you, you can say YES. All you have to do (in gmail at least) is perform a search. I'm a supporter of not deleting e-mails. It gives you deniability and you never have to think "Darn, I wish I had that file that John Q. Nobody e-mailed me"
  • Oh really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Matt Perry ( 793115 ) <perry.matt54@[ ] ['yah' in gap]> on Thursday August 10, 2006 @07:20PM (#15885338)
    The makeup and tidiness of your inbox is a reflection of your habits, your mental health and, yes, even the way Mom and Dad raised you.
    Or it means that hard drive space is so plentiful and cheap, and search algorithms so good, that I don't have to bother deleting or sorting anything.
  • answers all 250 emails per day, organizes them, and archives 'em? :)
  • OCD (Score:2, Interesting)

    I have that problem not with e-mail but with media I have downloaded. Instead of watching TV through cable I download TV shows and I find that even though I will never watch the series again I keep all the episodes. I have even bought larger hard drives and now have 750GB of space. This is a total waste of money but I find I can't delete them. I suposse its related to collecting things like beenie babies or spoons or whatever.
    • You say that now but in 20 years time on a rainy day watching a season of Deep Space 9 might seem like a good idea.
    • I have the same problem. I would rather spend money on more HD space instead of deleting any of my media. I think the whole obsession with hoarding bits is a standard geek trait.
    • Yes, I do exactly the same thing! My external HD is just loaded up with stupid little "funny" movie clips off the net, you know all those lame video clips on joke sites your friends send you, or in my case a lot of music/gear-related videos etc., along with mp3s and music videos I don't even like much anymore (but I "might want to see at some later time")...

      Sometimes I go through my disk to free up space and I find files and wonder "Why the hell is this still on here?" ... old files from 3 years ago that I
    • I archive everything that I probably can't get in a store in a few years. Why have Season 1 of the X-Files taking up space when Best Buy is already archiving it for me? The best things to archive are the old cartoons that aren't politically correct anymore, funny or propaganda commercials (anti-drug), and live events like news. The best is NFL football so you don't have to watch the edit job done by NFL Films later on.
  • it's a skill.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 10, 2006 @07:23PM (#15885356)
    Keeping your inbox empty (and generally being organized) is a skill that some people have naturally, and others don't. Those that don't, can learn it quite easily.

    It always amazes me when I see people who are incredibly disorganized, have to expend so much effort to find things, who basically are always just one big mistake away from burnout, when they could learn some basic organization skills and work SO much more efficiently.

    And for some reason these people say that being disorganized is being "creative" or something like that. Uh? Unless you're some kind of performance artist whose medium is a desk, papers, and computer, you should learn to focus your creativity in your work or whatever it is that you're trying to accomplish. I've seen the studios of famous artists who paint crazy, disorganized, abstract paintings.. they are often neat and clean and all the tools, like brushes and paints, are in a row, ready to use. These people have learned to focus their energy on their work, and not trying to find the Cadmium Yellow in that pile on the floor.

    Another thing about being disorganized: it keeps you from scaling. Limits the number of projects you can do or the hobbies you can keep track of. What a drag.

    Personally I recommend the Do It, Defer It, Delegate It, Delete It routine (found in Getting Things Done and other books). Just practice it for a month and see if doesn't make your life a little bit smoother to see that empty inbox.

    The inbox should be used for NEW, UNREAD MESSAGES ONLY!

    Even this article gives the impression that a messy inbox is just a "lifestyle choice", or something your parents taught you. Forget it. An organized inbox, desk, computer, etc., will almost always win over a sloppy one. So stop blaming your genes or your parents or the clock and GET ORGANIZED. Especially if you work with me. :-)
    • The inbox should be used for NEW, UNREAD MESSAGES ONLY!

      Who are you, the email Nazi? NO IMAP FOR YOU!

    • I'm a periodically tidy person. Every couple of weeks I'll clear out my inbox, and file all the various outstanding messages in their appropriate folders. And that applies in general to the way I organise pretty much everything else. But let me say in defence of messiness/creativity, that some people simply find they can't concentrate when everything's tidy and organised. Sort of like how some people (me included) find it easier to work with some background noise rather than dead silence.
    • Re:it's a skill.. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cagle_.25 ( 715952 )

      It always amazes me when I see people who are incredibly disorganized, have to expend so much effort to find things, who basically are always just one big mistake away from burnout, when they could learn some basic organization skills and work SO much more efficiently.

      It always amazes me when people think that everyone should be good at their particular strengths.

      But it also amazes me when I see people who are incredibly organized, expend a lot of emotional energy staying that way, but then are constrained

    • Do it -- you know you want it

      Defer it -- not tonight dear, I have a headache

      Delegate it -- go fuck yourself

      Delete it -- I'm leaving you

  • I never have unanswered emails (usually I receive between 50 and 80 daily). I take care all of them. I keep the stuff I need to act upon further on my main Inbox, and I move everything that's already been replied on my Archive-Inbox folder. I delete all spam emails on the spot, I archive all legitimate. My main inbox folder (that I need to further act upon) usually doesn't have more than 3-10 emails.
  • Advice (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mullen ( 14656 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @07:24PM (#15885364)
    A little advice, in work environment, keep every email and every reply so no one can fuck you over.
  • Or maybe (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @07:25PM (#15885365)
    My e-mail box is full of old e-mails because there's no reason to delete them?

    At work I keep almost every e-mail I get. I want them all to stay long enough to get backed up (policy is actually that we MUST do that, though it's not enforced) however I've plenty of space, there's no need to delete them. That way, should there be a question about something some months later, I can look it up in the old mail. Once a year or so I trash everything over 6 months old, if it was important I'd have already filed it away in an important folder.

    My inbox habits aren't really related to how I do things in my personal life, just to what the technology allows me to do. It's not like I leave the mails waiting because I haven't responded, I just leave them because there's no compelling reason to delete them regularly, and several to not do so.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Thunderbird automatically moves all my emails into the appropriate nested folders automatically. Once an email has been read and dealt with, it is marked read. If there are tasks I have to do based on the email, it is left as 'unread' till I'm done. I have over 25k emails over last 8 years and right now only one message shows as 'unread'

    I've never had an email clutter issue. Searching through emails is easy too. My sent mail is organized in nested folders too. Now if only Thunderbird could apply rules to my
  • I never thought I was in the minority, but the more I see how others work, the more I think that I might very well be.

    My In box is used exclusively for immediate, pressing emails. They are almost all from the last week, and are generally emails that I have not responded to, but need to. Sometimes I keep an email in there that I have responded to, but that just means that I *need* a response, and that I should email the person again if I do not hear back.

    If my In box ever gets more than about 10-12 messages
  • Delete! (Score:2, Funny)

    by ratboot ( 721595 )
    If it was important, another "have you forget" email will follow...
  • I used to file or delete everything. I was proud of the low numbers in my inbox as it showed I was on top of it. Now, I've got over 1 TB of storage, and a fast processor. I still file some categories of email out of habit, and every once and a while I throw other categories away. My inbox has over 8,200 emails in it. At any time I can search them by name, date, subject, keyword, even multiple fields. I guess the bust thing about computers is that even if you don't have a meticulous filing system, you can index search and organize things anyway. Works for me anyhow.
  • I used to address every email and delete it immediately or hold onto it only long enough to get closure on the thread. I did that for many years and then last year, I figured: "Let's try a different approach and see where that leads." So now I don't delete a damn thing and if I run out of space I just chop off the oldest half. According to the article, I'm having my midlife crisis.

    According to me, the whole thing is nonsense.

  • history (Score:3, Insightful)

    by brenddie ( 897982 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @07:29PM (#15885391)
    Dont delete them. Archive them, and 5 years from now go back and see if you remember what was going on those days. I have gone back a read some old email and some of them made me smile. Funny how everything changes including oneself. This is the closest you can get to a diary, whitout writing one.
  • Bullsh*t! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by phase_9 ( 909592 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @07:30PM (#15885394) Homepage
    I'm sorry, but this has really incensed me! This is absolute crap, I am incredibly organised when it comes to email because it's easy to stay on-top off (well, at least try to.) If an email is important, or it contains information that I will definatly need in the future, I will file it in a subfolder. If it's related to ongoing work, I will keep it in my intray until said work is completed when it will then be deleted. If it's my mother sending me pictures of kitten it will hit the trash before I've even gotten to the end. I wish my life was this organised, but it's just not - my bedroom is always a mess of clothes (until I start running out) and God knows that this place could do with a spring clean! Organising one's "virtual" presence is a hell of a lot easier than physically sorting things out! That felt good :)
    • "I wish my life was this organised,.."

      If the technology existed to make housework as easy as email, wouldn't you use it?
    • I wish my life was this organised, but it's just not

      Simple solution. stop screwing around on the computer, get your narrow ass outta that chair, and clean your room!
  • It's pretty obvious that who you are affects what you do in life: Be it work, or your inbox, it's nothing surprising, really. Where Mr. Greenfield's theory falls apart is when you consider the work that needs to be done to clean the inbox versus the work that needs to be done in everyday life. For example, my inbox is sorted and cleaned each time an email comes in, but yet, my house is quite messy and I have a lot of outstanding items on my agenda. Mr. Greenfield says "inboxes are metaphors for our lives",
    • if the technology exhisted to 'sort' the stuff around your house automatically
      (or by just poting at something and telling it where to go), then he would be correct.

    • Re:Flaw in Theory (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Kesch ( 943326 )
      I have to agree. My inbox is amazingly tidy and organized compared to the rest of my life. I'm not that messy of a person, but I rarely ever store anything in a fashion bordering on organized(it lands where it gets tossed). My only saving grace is my good memory; around 95% of the time I can recall where I tossed an object when I go looking for it 2 months later.
  • I can't believe this topic just came up.

    I've JUST spent the past three weeks emptying out my Inbox. I had over 1000 messages, going back to 2002, and all messages I felt deserved some kind of answer. (I run a rather busy website, and folk are mailing me for help or complaints all the time).

    Unfortuantely, if I let an email sit for a while - like, its a difficult problem to deal with - it'll get buried in other mail, and before I know it, I have a hundred messages, then 200, then 500, and you can guess the re
    • I've JUST spent the past three weeks emptying out my Inbox. I had over 1000 messages, going back to 2002,

      How quaint. Somebody with only 1,000 emails. You should win an award for "Slashdot reader with least email traffic" or something.

  • I leave my email in the inbox for as long as I need to deal with it. Once I finish, I delete it and it goes into the trash.

    The thing is that I never empty the trash - I still have emails as far back as 2001 in there :)
  • Inbox Zero, anyone? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mithras the prophet ( 579978 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @07:37PM (#15885432) Homepage Journal

    Ever since discovering Inbox Zero [], I am a happier man.

    For me, this means:

    • Only check email every 30 minutes or 1 hour, on a schedule. No notifiers [], no gorgeous translucent summaries [], no stinkin' badges []. I don't jump when email says to jump; I deal with it when I'm ready to.
    • When I'm reading through new mail, every message has one of four fates:
      1. Deleted, if it's useless
      2. Archived, where I can find it if I need to later
      3. Replied to or handled, if I can do so in 2 minutes or less
      4. Transformed into a todo [] -- either to do later in the day, or on a specific date -- and archived

    That way I don't have to wonder, "Say, I think there was some email I was meaning to deal with, where was it, somewhere in here, was it last week? And it's such a joy to have a perfectly empty It really is a great methodology / philosophy, and I heartily recommend it.

    Of course, I'd have more cred as a gettting-things-done wizard if I weren't reading Slashdot at the moment...

  • My GOffice (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I like GMail's rules, and obey them in my office:
    * Search, don't sort
    * Don't throw anything away

    No so keen on
    * Keep it all in context

    There are few things I would not do to have Google, Spotlight, or even grep for my office!
  • Living in the past (Score:4, Interesting)

    by paxmaniac ( 988091 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @07:41PM (#15885447)
    Looks like Jeffrey Zaslow is still living in the internet of ten years ago.

    I can't begin to describe how useful it is to keep a comprehensive email history. With a good system of labelling, archiving and searching, anything can be retrieved in a matter of seconds. Every day I query my mail archives: to find old contacts; to recall what was said in a conversation a year ago; to re-read old minutes. I have even taken to emailing memos and reminders to myself so that they can be searched in the same process with my communications.
  • Someday, future generations will thank me for the vast treasure-trove of research data provided by my meticulously saved folder of penis-enlargement spam and Windows viruses...

  • The only time I read any of my e-mail is when I use registration forms on websites and it requires it. IM works fine for every other use.
  • I have various flavours of archived inboxes and mboxes, stretching back to rather disorganized BSD PDP-11 in 1987.

    Don't delete anything. You'd be surprised at what becomes valuable or worthy of a chuckle 20 years later. Or archeology given long enough.

    See also: midden [].
  • by dangitman ( 862676 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @07:53PM (#15885515)
    "You are your inbox. Take a clear-eyed look at how you answer or file each email. Notice what you choose to keep or delete. Consider your anxiety when your inbox is jammed with unanswered messages.

    Piss off. I'm not doing what you tell me to, and submitting you your repressive inbox-ocracy. I refuse to even consider the idea that an inbox exists.

  • My work has a system where any emails in the inbox more than six months old are automatically deleted. So if you really want to keep something, you archive it promptly to ensure it doesn't disappear. Or, judging from the behaviour of some colleagues, you mourn the loss in dramatic terms, stamping up and down the hallways, muttering imprecations against the IT department.
  • I bet the next week or two will show a major drop in office worker productivity, as this article inspires a significant number of people to drop everthing else and clean out their inboxes.

  • The university I work for has a mail server and we are all "encouraged" to use this for our mail.

    OK, but the mailbox there has a 100Mb limit and if I keep any amount of the mail on the server (which I assume is backed up - an added plus) I run into the limit quickly (it doesn't take many ".doc" files and that is the format that everyone uses). Which then means I need to spend quite a bit of time moving things around. I'd download them (actually, I do download them, but using IMAP so a copy stays on th

  • Eh, I'm not convinced my inbox represents me. I'm very messy and certainly nobody has ever accused me of being organized, but just setting up a few simple rules keeps me from having more than a few emails in my inbox at any given time.

    Get yourself a good IMAP provider (try, set up spam filering and some Seive filtering on the server side and you'll never see clutter again. Mailing lists go into their folders, family stuff goes into a family folder, and clients go to their own place. Setting
  • by slaker ( 53818 )
    I have every personal e-mail message I've ever sent or received since 1994 sitting in my mail spool on a VPN-accessible IMAP server in my apartment. About 60,000 messages (perhaps 5GB, all told) in my "inbox". No folders. No sorting. No deleting. I can find any message I want using the search capabilities of my mail client (thunderbird or pine or elm, depending) and I can't say I've ever lost track of a discussion.

    Now I understand that people have quotas on their mail spool and the like, what what the hell
  • by Shky ( 703024 )
    As an ad coordinator (read: middleman) at a publishing company, my entire job is email. I'm an insanely disorganized and slobbish person in real life, but in my work life I have to be organized or I wouldn't be able to function. I have specific folders for everything and my inbox is always empty. When someone asks me about something that's happened months ago, I always know exactly where to find what I need.

    As I sit here at home, though, fearing to go to my gmail inbox as it's a mess, looking around m
  • What TFA doesn't mention and no one else here seems to have brought up is that the number you get every day matters. It's obviously much easier to stay on top of 20 daily emails than it is 200. Once the pile gets too big, you simply think that it's too hard to manage, and give up.

    I get about 20 emails a day, which means about 3 per hour. Of those, half are informative messages sent to me from one of my servers (which can be read and then deleted). So I only have to manage/respond to one email per hour. That
  • by proxima ( 165692 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @08:17PM (#15885624)
    I give every organization its own email address (I realize this isn't unique, but I'm surprised at how few people do it). If the address gets out and I start getting spam, it's a simple matter to redirect that mail to /dev/null. A fortunate consequence of this method is another, easier way of filtering incoming messages: by the "To:" field, rather than hacking together "From:" or "Subject:" entries as needed. So far, I've had no need for any spam filtering solution. I get the most spam from the address listed in my WHOIS records and on my website, but I could start rotating that address if I really cared.

    Not to say I'm organized enough to have every filter set up. Still, I usually don't let more than a couple hundred messages build up before I clear them out.
  • What's with the Northwest Florida Daily News links to what are really just AP stories? This makes 2 [] in as many days...
  • Personal habits (Score:3, Insightful)

    by emurphy42 ( 631808 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @08:26PM (#15885670) Homepage
    Work-related mail is retained forever as a CYA; I file them into per-client folders once the issue is closed, or I create a formal task entry for the issue, or they're superseded by a more recent mail. Gmail is retained forever because it's free; 99% of it is mailing lists (pure discussion) which are auto-filtered. ISP mail is deleted because it's not free (I only have a 40 GB home server); a fair chunk of it is mailing lists (where I may need to do stuff in response) which are auto-filtered.

    My wife has this weird thing about creating category folders, and then sub-folders for the individual people she talks to, with an auto-filter for each sub-folder. Migrating that monstrosity from OE to Thunderbird was Not Fun (tm).
  • Article is Stupid (Score:4, Interesting)

    by miyako ( 632510 ) <miyako&gmail,com> on Thursday August 10, 2006 @08:36PM (#15885716) Homepage Journal
    Right now, my email client says I have 2667 messages in my in-box. The oldest message I have dates back to January 31st, 2006. While most of these emails aren't very important, and it certainly wouldn't do much harm in deleting them, it seems to me like there isn't any reason to delete email that is less than a year or two old. My .evolution folder is only taking up 122.3MB out of the 1TB in the machine, so it's certainly mot a matter of running out of storage space. Organization is accomplished with Search Folders in Evolution, and if I need to find anything searching is fairly snappy. Given that there aren't really any down sides, I don't see any reason to not keep email around for a year or two, just in case. It's not like storing actual letters where they could pile up and take up real physical storage space, be difficult to search through, etc.
    Especially when so much business correspondance takes place via email, isn't it better to be safe and keep things around "just in case" than sorry if you happen to need them?
  • IT would be as unthinkable as geting rid of books.

    Admittidly, my goal is to have all the information that has ever existed and I wish painful death on anyone and any group that would prevent that. As a member of homo sapiens all the information that has ever existed or will exist is my birthright (except for the private information of others, if they wish to be paranoid; I prefer the slow public death of those who abuse rather than preventing access to, information). Outside of spam I archive nearly everyth
  • My Inbox is filled with Viagra.
  • As some others have mentioned, you have to keep your work email one day longer than your boss and your co-workers. Maybe not in the email program, but definitely archived somewhere. Everything else is just suicidal. All my private email is Gmail, and I am currently using 159MB out of whatever they offer right now. I do delete everything that ends up in the spam filter once a month or so, though.

    I do clean out my inbox by the end of every day, though. The emails either get answered and moved to a per month o

  • Shudder. How can someone use the "Delete" word with such abandon? Sure, eliminate the oldest 9,000 messages by archiving them to CD with a copy of Mutt. But delete? Never!

    My motto, "Email becomes inoperative when the media becomes unreadable." Which, I've come to accept probably applies to my Commodore floppies from the 80s.
  • Mmkay, I have anywhere from 500-700 emails sitting in my inbox by the time I go 'yup, needs cleaning'.

    I re-route four main 'form' emails to a local frat's folder,, LiveJournal, and Slashdot (natch). I either find these important enough to take note of, or 'just' distinguishable enough that I jump upon seeing them.

    Likewise, I have over 150 messages in my inbox from my ex, who I could shunt into a folder as well, but I figured out that I'd just rather delete the lot of them after a while, but because m
  • Query the DB (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @09:10PM (#15885858) Homepage Journal
    I stopped deleting messages from my email boxes long after I stopped sorting out into which folders I download files. These hierarchical DBs are useless for nearly everything but long transaction lists. When I want to find something, I use a search function. When I want to associate different items, I create links. I rarely know what I'll need to find, or how it relates to what else I'll have stored, when I first receive or create it. All those relationships are virtual, views and links - ways of using the data that's not directly related to where I store it.
  • by pixelguru ( 985395 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @10:20PM (#15886205) Homepage

    I used to adminster a number of OS X machines, and I always thought that spending 5 minutes on a user's machine could tell me more about their brain than working with them for years. Email tidyness is just the tip of the iceberg:

    • How (or if) they organize folders and intelligently name files.
    • Whether they have their desktop image set to the default, a photo of their family, or blaze orange bright enough to illuminate their work area (I saw this once).
    • Whether they view their files by column view, list or icons by default
    • If there are 2,417 files in their trash can or none.
    • Whether the icons on their desktop are evenly distributed, pushed into little piles... or if their desktop is completely empty (again, I saw this once and it creeped me out)
    • And email... I've seen users who ran into the max database size limit in OS X mail (I believe it's around 6GB), and I've seen users (like myself) who have so many email rules automatically filing things for them that barely anything ever actually reaches their inbox.

    It's all a window straight into their soul.

"An open mind has but one disadvantage: it collects dirt." -- a saying at RPI