Why filing away mailing lists for a while has improved my life
I've been on vacation for the past little while. As part of this vacation, I carried out my plans to improve my vacations, part of which was using procmail to divert messages from various mailing lists off to files instead of having them delivered to my inbox as I usually do. I started out only doing this to mailing lists for work software, like Exim and OmniOS, but as my vacation went on I added the mailing lists for other things that I use. As I hoped and expected, this worked out quite well; I soon got over my urge to check in on the mailing lists and mostly ignored them.
Recently I came to a realization about why this feels so good. It's not specifically that it's reduced the volume of email in my inbox; instead, the really important thing it's done is that right now, pretty much everything that shows up in my inbox is actually important to me. It's email from friends and family, notifications that I care about getting, and so on.
(Coming to this realization and writing it up has sharpened my awareness that some of the remaining email going to my inbox doesn't make this bar, and thus should also be filed away on future breaks and vacations.)
There's nothing wrong with the emails from those mailing lists. They're generally perfectly interesting. But right now (and in general) the mailing list email is not important in that way. It's not something that I care about. When it all was going into my inbox, a significant amount of my inbox was stuff that I didn't really care about. That doesn't feel good (and has other effects). Now my inbox is very pared down; it's either silent and empty, or the new email is something that I actively want to read because it matters to me.
(In other words, it's not just that processing my inbox is faster now, it's that the payoff from doing so is much higher. And when there is no payoff, there's no email.)
If I'm being honest about these mailing lists, most of this is going to be true even when I go back to work tomorrow morning. Sure, if I've just asked a question or gotten into a conversion, reading the mailing list immediately usually has a relatively high payoff. But at other times, the payoff is much lower and having the mailing lists go straight to my inbox is just giving me a slow drizzle of low-priority, low-payoff email that I wind up having to pay some attention to.
In fact I think a drizzle is a good analogy here. Like the moment to moment experience of biking in a light drizzle, the individual emails are not particularly onerous or bad. But the cumulative result of staying out in that light drizzle is that you quietly wind up soaked, bit by bit by bit. So I think it's time for me to get out of the email drizzle for a while, at least to see what it's like on an ongoing basis.
(I intend to still read these mailing list emails periodically, but I'm going to do it in big batches and at a time of my choosing. Over a coffee at the end (or start) of a day at work, perhaps. I'll have to see.)