I have 6 primary email accounts that I use every day; 5 of these are external and 1 is the one I use internally at work on the corporate LAN. I probably receive anywhere from 200-300 emails a day, about 80% of which require my personal attention and response.
I have GNOME Evolution configured to aggregate these accounts into one “view” in my mail. I also set up a “virtual folder” called “Unread Email” that all of the unread (i.e. new, incoming) email from all 5 external email accounts is visible from. Since I use this virtual folder as my primary “Inbox” folder for reading and responding to email, my “real” Inboxes have grown a bit cluttered over time because I never need to go into them directly.
I like to have my Inbox down to a total of 0 (yes, ZERO) emails at the end of every day in every account. With 5 separate mail accounts (IMAP) and 1 work account (Exchange), this can get challenging on busier days. If I have enough emails in my Inbox that I have to use a scrollbar to see them or they’ve gone “below the fold”, I’ve done something horribly wrong.
(If you’re interested in reading or hearing more about “Inbox Zero”, you might want to see this Google Talk by Merlin Mann for greater detail on the philosophy.)
After months and months of letting the “real” Inboxes for these accounts fill up, and dealing with ONLY the “Unread Email” virtual folder in Evolution, I finally went back and cleaned up the email in the main mail accounts, bringing me back to a total of 9 emails across all 5 accounts. The 9 emails which remain are there because I need to respond to them tomorrow, after doing a bit of research first.
Now my internal work email (Exchange + Outlook) is going to be even more challenging… because a large bulk of that email is research material, useful for referring back to later.
I’ve been slowly picking out the important bits and putting them into Microsoft OneNote, but I have to do that on a physically separate laptop because I do not have OneNote on my work machine (and installing any software is forbidden and locked down by very strict account policies).
Overall stress is dramatically reduced when you can log into your mail and see only THAT day’s emails in your Inbox, and nothing more. Ending the day with zero emails in your mail really does put some “completion” and accomplishment to the day’s tasks. You don’t have to be thinking about unanswered emails or “leftover” tasks from the previous day(s) or weeks ago.
If I can just keep on top of the emails in my main accounts, I’ll be well ahead of the game.