I have earlier described how I manage my email. That was a kind of abstract description, so let me explain again, this time with explicit examples from my use of the excellent email client MailMate on Mac.
To start with, I use IMAP and sort email in different mailboxes. The filters are updated with the help of Sieve. The implementation of a Sieve client I use is RoundCube in turn implemented as a WebMail client at my Email Hosting provider Frobbit!. As the filtering is not really interesting for this posting, I am not diving into that here.
I also use a few different email accounts. One for private email, one for work, and one archive. The interesting thing is the archive. My goal is to in the archive store all email that is more than one year old in one mailbox per month. This limits the number of “active” email to a small portion of all email I use, and specifically limits the number of email messages per mailbox.
Here is what the list of mailboxes look like. The blue folders are real IMAP folders while the purple ones are virtual mailboxes. The virtual mailboxes are created with the help of rules. If I try to first describe the flow of messages, it is like this:
Incoming mail is filtered via anti spam filters and filters that place email in various mailboxes. For example it is common I use one mailbox per email mailing list. I use Sieve as the language to control the filters on the server, and the Sieve client is the RoundCube web interface.
I have email in multiple IMAP accounts, and archiving is to one specific IMAP account. Because of this, the virtual mailbox with Mail last year is only based on mailboxes. There are no “Conditions”.
On the other hand, what is more important is the virtual mailbox that selects the subset of this not archived email. It selects email messages from the virtual mailbox called Mail last year (which in reality is not the mail last year, but all email not being archived) that I believe is important. The settings are in both Mailboxes and Conditions.
The Conditions section is much more interesting:
I have hidden some data I can not share, but I hope the information is clear enough.
The selection consists of two parts. Both must be True for the mail to be classified as Important, and because of that visible in this virtual mailbox. The first selection say that none of the tests must be true, and the tests are simply email addresses that I think send non-interesting mail. The second say that any of the requirements must be true, and that is a list of whitelist email addresses. Both can of course include senders and receivers as you can see.
From this mailbox I then select Unread email, and this mailbox with Unread Important is what I work with. All the time. That mailbox just must be empty. I either resolve issues immediately, or mark the email as Flagged.
I have a specific other virtual mailbox that include all Flagged messages:
This virtual mailbox include all tasks, i.e. my Todo list. Yeah, that should be empty, but is not…
There is one more virtual mailbox I want to describe, and that is the one with email messages that are to be archived.
First I select messages from the Mail last year mailbox:
Then I select messages that are not flagged, and older than a year (i.e. that should not be there):
And finally, I create sub mailboxes named in the form YYYY-MM:
And the result is…well…so that it is easy to act on it. Yes, I could have actions as well, but I have decided to move messages manually into the archive. I normally do that about once every month. As you can see below, I have 4929 email messages that should be filed into the Archive mailbox named 2015-02:
I hope that explains a bit on how one can (I do) manage my email, which to summarize include:
- Receive email
- Filter away as much spam as possible
- Sort into mailboxes
- Select messages I think are important
- Go through the unread important messages
- Flag messages or act and mark read
- Keep virtual folder with unread important messages empty
- Go through other unread messages when there is time
- Use the virtual mailbox with flagged messages as a Todo List
- Archive all old email that is not flagged