One of the curses of a modern digital life is an overflowing email inbox. Some online veterans delight in comparing how many thousands of unread messages they have, the way World War II veterans compare battle scars, while others such as VC Fred Wilson and copyright expert Lawrence Lessig have declared “email bankruptcy,” and a whole movement has sprung up devoted to attaining the state of bliss known as “Inbox Zero.” Now Digg founder Kevin Rose has posted his tips on how to get a handle on that never-ending ocean of unread mail that threatens to swamp your inbox.
Rose starts off with his battle scars: 938 unread work emails and 1002 unread personal emails. “The madness has to stop,” he writes. “What was once a 30 minute annoyance is now my full-time job.” Then he gets straight to the tips, which he posts in reverse order, David Letterman Top 10-style. Some are straighforward, and some are on the devious side:
* #5: “Add a http://three.sentenc.es/ email signature and keep them short.” This refers to an email policy of keeping responses to SMS text message-length: in other words, three sentences or less. Rose suggests inserting a Three Sentences email signature to let your friends and colleagues know what you’re up to.
* #4: “Type ‘Sent from iPhone’ under your short responses. People don’t expect long responses when you’re on your phone. Don’t forget to mispell a few words.” Rose even provides an example message: “This all looks graet +1!! Sent from iPhone” (if you don’t have an iPhone, of course, this ruse is quickly going to become obvious).
* #3: “Create a ‘VIP’ filter. Add your boss, investors, and close friends. Flag them red and throw them in a separate folder. This is the first place I check every morning.” This is something that most heavy users of email already do, but is certainly a good tip. Folders are one way to divert the waves of email you face, although you have to remember to check them, too, or you might as well declare bankruptcy.
* #2: “(Gmail only) Keep the spam out. If you’re giving your address to a potentially shady website, tack on +spam to the end, example: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can then filter those emails into a spam folder you check periodically.” Rose is right; this is one of the great things about Gmail. You can create as many custom addresses as you wish by using the + sign and a keyword, and then filter them.
* #1: “(Apple Mail or similar program) Setup an email bankruptcy filter. This is a little bit of a d*** move, but if you’re getting hundreds of new emails a day, it just might work.” The idea here is to create an auto-responder that sends a message to anyone whose email has gone a certain period (5 days, 10 days, etc.) without being read, telling them to try again.
It’s nice to see that even startup CEOs suffer from the same kinds of email problems we mortals are tortured by. And if you get a message from the Digg founder that says “This all looks graet!! +1! Sent from iPhone,” well, you know what that means.