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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.
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Hoarders vs. Deleters- What Your Inbox Says

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  • 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 BlahMatt ( 931052 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @07:19PM (#15885334)
    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 ) <> 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.
  • 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. :-)
  • 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 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?
  • 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.
  • by aardvarkjoe ( 156801 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @07:37PM (#15885426)
    That advice is not only extremely stupid, it's probably criminal as well. There are reasonable document retention policies one could imagine, but her advice is certainly not one of them.

    There's nothing criminal about deleting your old e-mail whenever you feel like it to free up space or clean things up. It may be criminal to hide evidence of wrongdoing by deleting your mail, and you might get into hot water if it looks like you were trying to cover something up by your "housekeeping," but a blanket statement of calling deleting email "probably criminal" is ridiculous.

    There's enough dumb laws without people dreaming up imaginary ones.

  • by iMaple ( 769378 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @07:38PM (#15885434)
    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.
  • My GOffice (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 10, 2006 @07:38PM (#15885435)
    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!
  • 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.
  • by necro2607 ( 771790 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @08:24PM (#15885659)
    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 only downloaded "temporarily" yet are still there, taking up space...
  • 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).
  • You are not alone (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dr7greenthumb ( 752231 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @08:54PM (#15885789)
    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.
  • Re:it's a skill.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cagle_.25 ( 715952 ) on Thursday August 10, 2006 @09:18PM (#15885890) Journal
    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 by their pre-allocations of time so that they can't focus on important priorities.

    Let's take a case in point: I ran a chem lab for 14 years. It was messy. I knew where everything was, but the students didn't (although that got better over time). Why was it messy? Because there were loads of projects going on all at once. Because as the students worked, I would circulate about and ask them questions about what they were doing. Then, I moved out of chem and on to other things. The new chem teacher is possessed by the spirit of Felix Unger []. The lab is neat, the principal is delighted -- but the students do about half as many labs, because Felix can't stand to have glassware out after the bell rings, so he gets less done during the period.
    Another thing about being disorganized: it keeps you from scaling.
    This is correct. My method wouldn't work if I had 5 lab periods in a row. BUT ... my method does accomplish something that the neatfreaks don't: I focus time on teaching instead of cleaning. I'm organized and focused, but my organization is in t-space, not (x,y,z) space.
    The inbox should be used for NEW, UNREAD MESSAGES ONLY!
    Agreed. In fact, my computer file structure is oddly enough quite organized. Go figure.
  • 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.

  • by fbjon ( 692006 ) on Friday August 11, 2006 @01:58AM (#15887203) Homepage Journal
    I have the same, on several accounts/servers even, but not everyone has access to a real mailaccount. That's where gmail gives all the convenience and almost all the power.

    On a different note, TFA is a great and inspiring self-help article:

    In desperation, he decided to delete all his messages. ... Mr. Stratten describes what he did as "pure evil," but he also calls it a turning point. He realized he had to find a better way to ease his guilt over not coming through for people. He is now hiring an assistant who will handle his email.
    Great way to deal with the problem, yeah.
  • by Itchy Rich ( 818896 ) on Friday August 11, 2006 @08:14AM (#15888140)

    ...IMAP... daily cron job... rsync... virtual server... SSH... Mutt... pssh... RBLs... bogofilter...

    • Cost of Gmail backup: $0. Cost of your backup machine: $more
    • Time spent setting up Gmail: None. Time spend setting up your system: Lots.
    • Expertese required for Gmail: None. Expertese required for your system: More.

    That it defaults to top-posting (and worse, offers no option to turn off this misbehavior) makes it terminally broken, IMNSHO.

    Top-posting does not make an email app "terminally broken". If Gmail was broken people wouldn't be able to use it, yet strangely they can, therefore you must be mistaken.

    Expected behavior is defined by the majority, who top-post. You're welcome to be a refusnik if you like, but that reduces the weight of your opinion when discussing UI design decisions for consumer-focused webmail products.

    Options to do X, Y and Z cost money and add complication. There's only a borderline case for adding that option considering that proponents of bottom-posting are much more likely to have their own email arrangements.

    Gmail is not for you. I accept that. However your criticism is incomplete and inaccurate, and seems motivated mostly by egotism.

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