To File or Not To File

A common problem these days, the number of email messages that I have to process has increased considerably over the past years. Traditionally, I have filed emails that I wish to keep into a large hierarchy of folders defined within Apple Mail. I’m now beginning to experience two negative consequences of this approach:

  • The amount of time I actually spend filing messages is now non-negligible.
  • The amount of time I spend looking for important messages is becoming considerable, especially given the time needed to identify into which of my folders I likely filed a message.

In response, I’ve recently switched to an approach that I hope will resolve this problem. I have reduced my hierarchy of folders to three, to which I have AppleScripts bound to keystrokes for instant filing:

  • @Inbox. Any incoming message that requires some action goes here. About once per day I go through this mailbox, processing each message — recording the required action as part of my (now world famous, just check out the bottom of that page! Thanks Mike!) Getting Things Done programme, and then filing it in 2005.
  • @Waiting for… Any message that represents something I’m waiting for, goes here. (I review this box regularly, and follow up on late things.) For example, if I request something of somebody, I’ll CC myself on the mail, and then file it here.
  • 2005 All mail that I consider sufficiently important that I might want later is filed here.

This strategy is also based on the increasingly agreed-upon concept that it’s better to search large pools of information, than to browse. Right now, Mail’s search capabilities are rudimentary, but Tiger promises to improve the situation considerably with Spotlight. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about here, you’re missing out. Get yourself a Macintosh!)

Agree? Disagree? What do you think?

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