I’m a believer in the Inbox Zero philosophy; that is, I don’t like my brain to be in my inbox. If I have more than about 5 read emails sitting around, I get uncomfortable. I recently noticed myself getting sloppy with email, so I watched the Merlin Mann’s original Inbox Zero video for a refresher. The part of the video where Mann describes typical email processing as a deli chef who reads the orders multiple times, organizes them in different ways, but never actually makes a sandwich. Email is a support tool to help us actually do things. It is a means to an end, not an end in itself.
So, I took a look at the tools and processes I use for email. Since email is text, IMHO it belongs in emacs. I have been using emacs mew for a while now, since I like how it allows you to keep using emacs when it’s doing IMAP operations. I also use k9mail on my Android phone to check email hourly. My plan was to process email in mew daily, and keep in touch with the rest on my phone.
My analysis is I got sloppy in three aspects:
- I read too much email on my phone. I was e.g. catching up on mailing lists on my phone, when really that should be done at my daily mew session.
- In my daily mew check, I would leave mail for processing later.
To combat this, I started using Gnus instead of mew. The key feature of Gnus is that it reads email like a newsgroup reader–that is, once an email is marked is “read,” by default it no longer shows up in your inbox. This provides a constant reminder that email should be read once and processed, not left in the inbox to reread and process later.
As a side benefit, I find Gnus to display email beautifully. HTML emails show inline images properly. It displays messages properly threaded. I love the overall look-and-feel.
This is my current plan for disciplined email. In a month or two of using Gnus, I’ll check in to see how my email processing is going.