I use many e-mail accounts. I habitually check 3 to 5 of them, depending on which computer I am using. I was receiving e-mail on my Blackberry from all of them, non-stop, all day long. I don’t remember exactly what the series of events were, but it culminated in me nodding my head vigorously at Tantek’s wiki entry about communication protocols.
I was in a flux at that point, and decided, among other things, to turn off my data plan for my mobile. Additionally I turned off the auto-check function on all of my e-mail addresses, so it only checks for e-mail when I open Thunderbird, and then if I decide to check it again manually.
The first week I did this I had an amazing sense of tranquility. Sometimes I would be anxious, until I figured that if there was anything that I needed to get to quickly, someone would call me. Electronic mail is not a form of instant messaging. It took a great amount of effort to internalize this.
There are a lot of opinions on the net about how to use an inbox. I use it as a to-do list, in a sense. I have an old-messages folder (I use DreamHost, and they recommend this, as it uses up less resources on their servers), and that is my searchable archive as well as my “done” folder.
I got off nearly all the mailing lists I was on, since they are more or less useless to my style of communicating. There are two, however, that I maintain: one is for my household, which is very handy for discussing domestic issues with five adults’ schedules. The other list is partly a social experiment, an invite-only list of my friends and whoever they want to invite. I have maintained it for a little over two years now, and it hasn’t blown up into a drama-filled cesspool of misinformation and angst. I am still holding out…
I advocate we step away from e-mail in its current form. I am a fan of XMPP, and I will assist anyone who wants to try new technologies, and I would love to hear what other people are doing to deal with information overload (and especially apophenia).