Email Bankruptcy - One Month On

- Dec 30, 2020

It’s been just over a month since I declared “Email Bankruptcy” and I wanted to share a few notes about how it’s going.

If you read the original post I noted that I hadn’t been running my new email setup for a while and that only time would tell if it were going to be any marked improvement on my experience with email.

I quickly learned that Gmail doesn’t have any functionality to mark email from contacts without an advanced filter. While I could have spun up something like a virtual assistant on a server, combing though my inbox to do that for me, I adopted a work-around that works out of the box with Google and does seem to do the trick. A virtual assistant would need a non-zero amount of maintenance, including keeping contacts in sync, as well as security patching.

Instead, I am now leveraging the “Important” feature of Gmail which tries to add some smarts as to what you would normally care to read and what you wouldn’t. Since I can’t make this my primary inbox on iOS (as far as I can tell), and just because it’s something I care about eventually today but not necessarily right now, it can be busier than I would like.

So what I do is I first auto-archive all email except for a handful of from addresses, namely the kids schools notifications. The emails that get my inbox treatment are things I should know ASAP. Normally I would move these emails over to my new custom domain address but the items that remain here are where I would expect some back-and-forth communication with individuals on a social level or that it’s too cumbersome to get them migrated over. We can call them “The Stragglers”.

Now where the “Important” label comes in is by enabling that as an IMAP folder. I can optionally include this folder in a list on my mail apps and I can peruse this folder when I feel the need to.

All other, non-important email can be found in the “All Mail” folder. Mail that shows up here will include mail that Gmail didn’t believe I would find important. Here is where I get a peak into the false negatives of its “Important” algorithm. I would flag these emails while I was on mobile so I knew to go back an continue to train their algorithm (note: You should have the “Use my past actions to predict which messages are important to me.” option turned on under the Inbox tab of your Gmail settings for this to work well). The hit rate is now about 95% so I have now removed this folder from showing up in IMAP. It can be an entire time-sink on your phone and you will end up ignoring the Inbox and Important folders outright so I strongly suggest you do the same.

I wish I had taken some hard before numbers about the amount of time I was wasting with email while I on my phone or in my browsers. What I can say though anecdotally that I feel like I waste less time on my email. Looking into 2021 what I want to do is start adding a bit more labeling and further pare down on the amount of time I spend looking at the “Important” label. I would like to peel out transactional emails from this label into a separate label.