Picking this up again. (Hi. Life. Other projects. Yeah.)

So. I have a bunch of email addresses. And a bunch of email. To be precise, I currently have:

  • 2 emails I use for personal stuff
  • 3 emails on various professional stuff that is not my actual work email
  • a small handful of ‘utility’ email addresses that I use for site signins, etc.

In practice, all of these dump into a single Gmail account, because in practice, I may be accessing my email from four different devices or so, and Gmail is the best solution to that. However, I would like to have a backup, and I would, ideally, like to have my email better cleaned out from all the random stuff that I really do not need to archive.  I’m slowly working on that, courtesy some new tools from Gmail that make it easier to find unlabelled emails (or large files, or emails from more than X years or months ago…) However, since there’s 23,000 emails in my Gmail, give or take a few, this might take me a while.

Why so many email addresses?

Two are from the domains I maintain (one of which is, the other is the equivalent domain I use for personal stuff). Three are Gmail accounts (one personal, one general professional, and one “it is useful to have a firstinitiallastname type address”.)  Partly, it’s a problem of “once you pick them up, it’s hard to put them down, and it’s easier just to set them to move everything into one mailbox.”

I also have a work email address, and I don’t count that above, because in practice, it lives in its own account, and I only reliably log into it from work. (We use GoogleApps at the University of Maine, so it’s trivial to log into it from home if I do need to. But in practice, I don’t unless I’m home sick and checking in briefly, travelling and checking in briefly, or something like that.)

I like having domain-anchored emails where I have absolute control, but I have to admit Gmail’s spam filtering is reliably simpler a lot of the time.

Managing that email:

I email from a number of email lists, and that all filters into a label in Gmail called (imaginatively!) “lists”. This makes it easy to check all at once, and to delete periodically when needed (since I like to have the emails around while a thread is ongoing, but rarely want to save most of it, since I can get at the list archives if I need to).

I have another email list (the major project) that comes to my inbox but is auto-labelled, and things like comment notifications. (Also labelled) I also label and filter offers (Groupon, various stores), receipts, and so on into their own little folders. (Most of those get marked read and filtered automatically: if I’m contemplating an order somewhere, I’ll go browse the recent offers first.)

What this leaves in my inbox are personal emails directly to me, anything that hasn’t been caught by the filtering, and the project emails and comment notifications. When I’m done reading, I either delete or archive, so that there’s usually never more than a handful of emails active in my inbox at any one point. I more or less aim for inbox zero, but I usually have a couple of current threads I don’t want to lose track of in there.

When I wrote this post, my inbox included:

  • A reminder email to renew one of my domain names (just did that, so I can archive it now.)
  • A conversation re: the major project that we wanted to pick up after thinking about it overnight.
  • An on-and-off email chain with a friend who’s reading said project and sending me commentary.
  • A draft a friend sent me (also can be archived)
  • And since I just did the domain renewal, three emails related to that have arrived since I started this list.

I have just archived all but the 2nd and 3rd emails here, and can now get on with my life. Part of why I’m so careful about keeping up on my archiving is that when I do access email from my phone, it is a pain in the neck to have to scroll extensively.


The final step – and this is the one I’m working on cleaning things out enough to do properly – will be downloading. Since I really would like a backup that is not cloud-based. See also “23,000 emails” though I don’t actually know how many aren’t labelled yet.  (Current progress: I have moved through the unlabelled ones back to the end of May 2012.)

Other tools (added 1/26/13)

One thing I forgot to mention in my original post is that I’m seeing some – I don’t think this is the intended behaviour – but Gmail in the tab I keep open doesn’t usefully notify me there’s a new message. (It does on my laptop, and I have yet to track down what’s different between the two.)

Anyway, to solve that, I now run MailTab Pro, a menu bar app that lets me open Gmail without keeping it open, and that also alerts me (with a useful tone) when a new mail comes in. In practice, I generally leave Gmail open anyway (because I use the Docs and Quick Links widgets a lot) but it’s nice to know when there’s new email and get a quick notification on who it’s from.

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Hi, I’m Jen

Librarian, infovore, and general geek, likely to write comments about books, link collections, and other thoughts related to how we find, use, and take joy in information.

I'm the Research Librarian at the Perkins School for the Blind

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