Is it a culling or a purge? I am not 100% sure on the semantics, so allow me to elaborate.
I use gmail and I love it. I have been in it since the early beta and it has been my primary email for a long time. Wow, I just went and checked and my welcome email from google was 1/25/05 – longer than I would have thought. I have labels and labels and labels. I have things which are labeled and archived. I have things which are labeled and stay in inbox. I have things which are neither labeled nor archived. Since I have had this account for so long I get tons of emails that I am not even really interested in anymore – I just archive them when I think of it (usually when my inbox gets a few hundred deep). I get email from companies I ordered one thing from years ago. I am on mailing lists that I signed up for during one of my many phases of incandescent interest in something that has since cooled. I get email from politicians I support and dislike. I get action notices from causes that I am vaguely interested in. I occasionally get email from a friend.
One of the key things in GTD (and it’s more elegant cousin, ZTD) is to have a clean and minimized inbox. Google made it easy to cheat on this. I remembered the possibly apocryphal way Napolean Bonaparte handled his correspondence. He would never even open anything for the first few weeks. If it was important, people would follow up with him. If it wasn’t it would likely work its way out on its own. I selected every single email in my inbox and hit archive. Sorry if you are waiting on a reply from me. Resend it to me if it was important 😉
Now, as I get new emails I evaluate whether it is something I want to put my energy toward reading or not. If not, I evaluate whether I am still interested enough to possibly read it in the future. Either way, that email gets deleted. If I am only marginally interested or actively disinterested, I unsubscribe from the list. If I might be interested in the future I will re-evaluate next time I get the email.
I have to say I was astonished at how much mail I get on a daily basis and how little of it I would actually read. Having an empty mailbox is nice. I never realized the stress that the crowded mailbox was causing me. The absolute overload. Next up, and with appropriate shout out to ZTD I am going to go through my labels and delete them as well. The end goal will be to have a main inbox, a “deals” inbox (where things like borders coupons and pizza coupons which I actually will use will get filed), and an ideas box where I can email myself ideas I have for articles or stories while I am at work. I am going to archive far less and delete far more. Emails from @i will be archived as will some other personal correspondence, but just because gmail allows me to save everything thanks to a ridiculously generous amount of space, I don’t think that I should.
It is nice having a clean inbox.
And with that, Cool Timer has gonged, letting me know that my 10 minutes are up. So, tell me how you handle your inbox (if it is even a problem or if it is just me) and whether I am culling or purging.