In the tradition of doing a year end tally, I thought I'd open the hood of my email In Box and give you some insight on how I cope with our modern world's increasing information overload.
In 2007, I received 16,643 emails, an average of 1,357 email per month, or about 44 per day. My annual average is 16,294 emails. Here is the month by month breakdown:
(Last year I had no email in January through March—I must have accidentally reset my stats program.)
Of those 16,643 messages, 6,799 were junk email, which is 40% of all my received email. Here is the month by month breakdown of that:
Last year, my junk email ratio was 46%, so things are improving. I cracked down on junk email in late July and you can actually see the drop on the chart—my received emails and junk emails were cut in half.
How do I manage to process over 16 thousand emails? If there are 8,760 hours in a year, I've spent only 201 hours processing emails, at least on Eudora (I'm sure I've spent much more since I got my laptop in July of last year). 201 hours is 2.29% of my entire year. If you include time on my laptop remote checking email, and tack on Myspace and Facebook emails, let's assume 5% of the year was spent checking emails. Even so, that's not too bad. If it were in the double digits, I might be worried.
Now let's have some more fun with numbers:
201 hours / 9,846 legitimate emails = 1.22 minutes/email
Still, not too bad.
But how do I sift through so many emails? I have a few tricks...
- Eudrora, not Mail, Yahoo Mail, or Gmail.
- I've always debated whether I should switch to an internet email service like Gmail, but so far the local email programs like Eudora are still superior, as you'll soon see with my custom filters for spam and other mail. Plus, I still use my Yahoo! mail account to collect email from my home account. And when I send email from my Yahoo account, I set my "Reply to:" to my home email account so all mail still gets funneled through my home account.
- I am vigilent about spam.
- I don't post my email address on any web site. If I do, it's a web site I trust and my email is written out, e.g., myfirstnameATrossprudenDOTcom. This keeps naughty spam spiders from finding my email.
- I ask my friends not to tack my email on their mass emails. Emails can be forwarded endlessly and it's only a matter of time before some spammer grabs my email. If they must add me to their mass email, I ask that they put me in the BCC: field.
- I use email aliases. I own my own domain (rosspruden.com) and can create and delete new users on the fly. In my case, rather than have 10 different email accounts, I have aliases which all point to my main email. If an alias gets siphoned off by a spammer, I can delete that alias and create a new one in minutes. It's like a condom for emails.
- I installed an awesome local spam filter. I'm a Mac user, so I use Spamsieve with Eudora. Spamsieve lets you teach it how to filter your spam so it gets better over time. Last year, it caught 96% of all spam. This year, it caught 98%.
- I use filters to self-sort all incoming mail.
- I eliminate all emails I CC: myself on. I set those emails to go directly to the trash (which I never empty, but I know those emails are there if I need to search for them). I also belong to a number of mailing lists, and all emails sent by me to those lists are sometimes sent right back to me. Don't need to see those emails. They go directly to the trash.
- I filter certain emails directly into folders. For instance, all my blog posts are emailed to me for archive purposes. But I don't need to waste time looking at those. They go right to where they will live forever. I never see them.
- I divide my email into direct and general emails. Many of my incoming emails are not sent specifically to me: my email may in the CC: field, or the email might be from a mailing list. While I do need to read those emails, they usually aren't high priority so I filter them into a folder called "Once/day" which I check only—wait for it—once per day. I also turn off any sound or visual alerts so I don't even know when I get those emails. That helps me not get distracted with low-priority stuff.
- What's left are emails sent directly to me, and that's a considerably smaller percentage than 9,846 emails. On those emails, I have a sound alert set so I know—if I'm at my computer—when I've got incoming mail.
- (These groups of tips are more subtle—I had to think hard about them because they aren't things I consciously decided to do, but things which I've evolved into doing.) With every email, I try to be as succinct as I can in one or two sentences. Bereft of facial expressions and vocal inflections, email is often a medium where misunderstandings happen without effort or intent. Knowing when to be brief saves time. But knowing when brevity does not reflect the correct nuance, and which will lead to trouble later on, is equally important.
- I don't use signatures anymore. At the end of every email message, I used to tack on my email address and all my contact info, but that 10 line block of text just ends up being "junk text" I need to sift through whenever I review a thread of discussions. Distill as needed.
I hope these tips make your 2008 more productive! If you have any tips you use which I haven't listed here, please share them with me.
Happy New Year!