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How to Handle All That Email

by Shirley E. Kaiser, M.A., SKDesigns

Copyright © 1999-2021, Shirley E. Kaiser, M.A., SKDesigns. All rights reserved. Published at with permission.

Editor note February, 2008: Don't let the 1999 copyright date fool you. This article and the ideas aren't outdated, even if the software version is old. These tips can also apply to whatever email program you use.

One of the great features of getting onto the Internet is email. One of the nightmares of the Internet can also be what to do with it all!

Rather than losing your sanity or giving up subscriptions to valuable, information-packed discussion lists and newsletters, let's look at ways to organize that mail better.

These are items we'll address to help manage incoming mail, sent mail, SPAM, long-term storage, and more:

Although this tutorial is based on using Netscape 4's Messaging Center, it can still be a guideline for later versions, for Microsoft Outlook, Eudora, and other email programs with similar features.

Setting Up Email Folders

First of all, let's set up and organize some email folders. The sample below is just one of many possibilities. The main thing is to set it up to best serve your own needs.

Here are directions for how to set up email folders in Netscape — other email programs are similar to this.

This is what I did for the example below:

Sample of Email folders

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Setting Up Message Filters

Message filters are an automated system of directing incoming email to certain folders rather than to the Inbox. Mail can also be deleted via message filters prior to even getting to your mailbox if desired (such as for SPAM).

Message filters automate your email organization. Mine is set up now so that the only mail that comes directly to my Inbox is from clients and friends. All other mail is filtered to a folder.

When new mail arrives in a folder, a small green arrow appears above that particular folder. The name on the folder title also becomes bold for unread mail in a folder.

Here are directions for setting up message filters in Netscape — other email programs are similar to this.

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Reading . . . . Scanning All the Email

When I have time I scan through my newsletters and discussion lists (I wrote an article on how to handle a volume of email fairly easily and in very little time). I couldn't possibly read every word of all the subscriptions I receive, but scanning through them quickly provides me with a quick overview, and I can narrow in on specific items as needed. There is, of course, filtered mail that I especially enjoy and is more informative, and I'm sure to read those in detail.

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Finding That Note or Information Later . . . .

Additionally, I take advantage of the Search and Find features with Netscape's Messaging Center. I suspect other email programs have this feature or certainly will soon. It's a tremendous time saver.

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What To Do With Old Email

I also periodically go through the folders and either delete old mail or store it on a back-up disk, keeping only current mail for immediate access.

It's a fairly simple process, is amazingly efficient, and makes an incredible difference. The few minutes of time needed to set it all up is more than worth it.

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Discussion Lists, Newsletter Sources

Interested in finding a list for business or personal interests? For Web site-related lists, check out the listing of annotated resources to discussion lists, newsletters and more.

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