WHEN RETURNING to a backlog of e-mail, I don't try to read the sludge of e-mail from unknown senders. I ruthlessly delete it. Sometimes that leads to me killing mail from a first-time correspondent but that's not much different than tossing unopened letter box items into the rubbish bin after a holiday break. After all, I have discovered that if it's really important, it will come via registered post or via courier.
I also have another tactic I started using to kill email backlog. I listen to my backlog through Magnetic Time, a program I purchased from the Limerick company. I send unopened emails to a Magnetic Time queue where the software converts the email text to MP3. Then I synch the MP3 files onto my iPod before shutting down at work. If this appeals to you as a way of getting things done while commuting, I will explain the workflow involved. In an "Inside View" podcast, I'll share some audio snippets to showcase some short snippets from the best and worst e-mails I have to endure on a weekly basis.
1. Kill the sludge. You don't want to listen to stupid mail solicitations so you should filter out the sludge before transferring the unopened mail into the text-to-voice portable mail process. You have to develop your own filtering system and it should work well enough to be automated. I depend on spam and filtering in Yahoo! mail.
2. Select and send your portable mail to a clean account. I simply forward my portable mail (the mail I want converted from text to speech) to an account I have at well.com and then I harvest that mail account with Outlook Express.
3. Retrieve your portable mail from your clean mail account. It has to be done through Outlook or Outlook Express for the one-step conversion process to work in Magnetic Time.
4. When all portable mail is retrieved into Outlook Express or Outlook, click the MT-Portable link in Magnetic Time Assist.
5. Allow two minutes for every mail message to be converted. Your processing time may vary. Mine reflects the presence of long emails from RSS aggregators, transcripts from IBM podcasts, and technical proposals from campus companies.
6. Attach the iPod. Click to sync the portable mail folder.
I listen to these portable mail messages when stuck in traffic, walking the dog or browsing the shops. Contrary to those cursed with a Blackberry burden, I don't feel I'm connected to work while listening to portable mail because the synthesized voice (a platinum voice that sounds natural) is on my iPod. If I feel the portable mail is burdensome, I just select my podsafe music playlist and I go to another place.
After writing all these steps, I know there's probably a more streamlined process someone else has proven. I've shared ones that fit my workflow and I hope that when Windows Vista appears in my life that I'm going to be able to get Windows Mail to behave as predictably as Outlook Express. If it doesn't I may be able to revert to Eudora since the mailbox file type appears to be the same as Outlook Express Mail files.