Quick Tip: Thunderbird Tags + Trusted Trio = Quick Inbox Processing

I get a lot of email and so do you. Gina Trapani’s Trusted Trio system of email folders is really helpful for sorting and storing whatever comes in. Every email you get either goes into the “Follow Up”, “Archive” or “Hold” folders (or is deleted).

Gina says her system is an adaptation of a Merlin Mann system, and to my eyes it looks similar to Gina’s cooked-down general approach to Getting Things Done.

The idea is we need to sort our email, but an overly-complicated system of folders yields diminishing returns since it takes time and effort just to decide where an email is supposed to go.

Reducing the number of folders to three helps, but it still takes…well…effort to drag those messages (with “Holds” and “Follow-Ups” and “Archives” all mixed up with each other) over to the different folders, and when processing a backlog of messages that can be a pain. And if your IMAP email is on a slow connection it can take a while for each folder to update.

My little contribution to this system, for Thunderbird users, is to use the numeric hotkeys for Thunderbird’s built-in tags for sorting. In my case I use “1” for Follow Up, “2” for Archive and “3” for Hold. These tags will instantaneously markup your email headers, with a neat color code to boot.

Then just use the “View” drop-down button on your toolbar to filter the Inbox by a tag. Then highlight all those “Archives” or “Holds” or whatnot and drag to the appropriate folder in one stroke. Voila! Now it takes only three drags to empty your Inbox, no matter how many messages are waiting.

If the View dropdown is not already there, right-click on your toolbar near the top of the window and click “Customize.” Drag the button to an empty space on the toolbar and you’re ready to go. Tag titles can be customized under Edit -> Preferences -> Display, and then clicking the Tag tab. Happy sorting!

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