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August 15, 2004

Overwhelming

3600-Unread.jpgMac OS X users will instantly recognize the image at left and think I'm crazy. Everyone else probably needs this little bit of explanation before coming to the same conclusion: in Mac OS X, applications have the ability to "badge" their dock icons with information. In the case of Mail, it displays the number of unread messages you have. Yes, I have 3600 unread messages spread across 4 e-mail accounts.

Luckily for me, though, not all of them are messages I'll ever read. In fact, a decent chunk of it is promotional e-mail and spam. Rather than reading them, I just leave them sitting in my inbox unread and pretend they're not there. It inflates the unread count until I finally get around to culling them every month of two, but man does it save me time in tearing through my new mail.

Rael Dornfest (I think it's Rael, anyway) has often mentioned a unique approach to electronic mail: keep the inbox empty. Sort, delete, automatically filter, whatever -- but when you sit down in front of that e-mail client, the inbox should either be empty or only contain the things that absolutely must stare you in the face for the moment. It's a valiant idea, but many people (myself included) treat our physical mail and electronic mail the same way. Sort through it when it comes in for the important stuff (bills, sales, letters from Dear Aunt Edna) and leave the rest on the counter to deal with later. The problem with that approach, of course, is that it's pretty much impossible to receive dozens of items in the post each day, but "dozens" is a fairly minimal amount of electronic mail for many people. Part of the reason so many of us function this way is that e-mail is a productivity killer. Unlike many other things you can do on the computer, e-mail tends to require more of your attention.

What I've started doing to keep on top of things is to use the excellent Mail.appetizer. Every time new mail arrives, it appears in an unobtrusive corner of my screen, transparently, displaying the sender, the subject, and a sample of the message body. If I decide the message is worth reading or responding to immediately, I click the subject and Mail.appetizer opens it for me. If not, I can ignore it or click anywhere else and the notification disappears. I no longer have to actually open my e-mail reader when I hear the new mail chime, disrupting whatever I was doing.

Posted by Colin at August 15, 2004 10:02 AM

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Hi, I don't know if you're still doing this blog- but it popped up when I did a search for Pure Beech sheets from Bed Bath & Beyond. This is purely out of curiousity- do you still love your sheets all these months later? Did they survive washing and drying or did they get little annoying pills on them? Are they as soft as you imagined them to be?
Oliveyes

Posted by: oliveyes [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 3, 2005 7:16 PM

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