Like many of you, I get hundreds of email messages every week and have long been following discussions in books and on the web of how to keep an inbox under control. I like many of the ideas from David Allen‘s Getting Things Done (GTD) which does focus on emptying a physical or virtual inbox fairly quickly.
But I found that it was tricky to do this with the Thunderbird email client for Linux. There were two things I wanted to do and neither one worked. This morning, I found a one-click solution for both problems and have managed to bring my Inbox down to 0 in a fairly short period of time.
The first problem was that I wanted to stop automatic retrievals of emails while I’m working. I feel like Sisyphus when I answer five emails only to have ten more come in. I buy the argument made by many personal productivity gurus that you should set aside certain times — possibly once a day — to download and read your emails. Otherwise you’re constantly interrupted.
But when I went into Thunderbird’s menus and tried to set them up to not download my emails at various intervals, the changes didn’t take hold. (I used Edit | Account settings; I am running version 188.8.131.52 (20071022) – the lastest version there is.)
There seemed to be no way to get Thunderbird to remember how to do this.
The second problem — and this is one I spent some time Googling today — is that Thunderbird doesn’t have an option to send all messages I’ve written later rather than now.
Why would I want to do this? Because sometimes, the sending of a message can take 10, 20 or 30 seconds if there’s any delay in connecting to my SMTP server, or if I’ve attached anything. I hate sitting and staring at a screen for upwards of half a minute waiting for an email to be sent. I prefer to send them in batches.
There are various plugins that are supposed to help with this, but the one I tried didn’t work in my version of Thunderbird.
There is the option of not clicking on the Send button, but of going into the menu and selecting “Send Later”, but as one who has gotten used to clicking on the big Send button, I rarely remember to do this.
What I needed was a big “Send Later” option (without a send now option in sight) and no interruptions from incoming emails.
And I found it — undocumented — so I’m telling you here:
In Thunderbird, under the File menu, click on ‘Offline’.
That’s it, problem solved.
I worked offline all morning, managed to get through my entire inbox without interruptions, moved things that take more than two minutes to do into my task list (using J-Pilot), and sent off all the messages in a batch when done.