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Inbox Infinity - The Inbox Zero Smackdown

Posted 16 years, 2 months ago    0 comments

Inbox infinity is a little email management system I've developed over the past few years that hopefully others will find useful. It's the complete opposite of the Inbox Zero philosophy by Merlin Mann of 43 folders.

Inbox infinity is remarkably similar to the concepts behind Google Mail, where search is the interface, so for this system to work you'll need an email client with a decent search facility, such as Apple Mail.

Here's how it works:

  1. Read everything that comes in.
  2. If the email is something you need to act on, flag it.
  3. Leave everything in your inbox. Don't delete anything (except perhaps really obvious trash)
That's it, the ultimate in lazy. Doing nothing becomes the most commonly done thing, and that makes life easier. "Do nothing" FTW.

The problem with folders and keeping things organised is you have to make a decision for each email you receive. With Inbox Infinity decision making is greatly simplified. "Flag stuff I need, ignore stuff I don't".

To flag things easily, try adding the flag button on the toolbar. Right click the toolbar and choose "customize".
Apple Mail toolbar with the flag button added
Apple Mail toolbar with the flag button added

To keep track of what's been flagged, it's easy in Apple Mail to set up a smart folder to show only flagged items. You can then use the flagged items a bit like a todo list, of stuff you have to deal with.

To find stuff from a certain person, or an old email use the search facility. Currently with over 42,344 email messages Apple Mail searches through everything in about 1 second.
The search bar in Apple Mail
The search bar in Apple Mail

I have to be honest, I do sort my mail into folders. Once a year it's worth creating a folder for the year just past, and archive your inbox into it. This stops the inbox from becoming too much of a behemoth.

Note Jaguar and Panther versions of Mail don't handle folders bigger than 1GB very well, Tiger 2GB, so you might like to archive each month if you get a lot of attachments. You could also use the "Remove Attachments" command from the message menu.

Well that's Inbox Infinity - quite frankly the system is pretty flawless at the moment, specific messages can always be found, and you know what you've got to do. How much more organised do you need to be?

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