I have come up with a system of managing my emails in Mail (OS X only) that has helped me tremendously in managing the dozens of emails I receive each day. Before this system, I used to mark emails as unread that I needed to take action on. This became very unwieldy as I would lose track of what I had read vs what I just needed to take action on at a later point. I had many emails fall through the cracks, and urgent emails didn’t get regarded as promptly as they should have.
To solve this problem, I spent time experimenting with Mail’s Smart Mailboxes. I wanted a Smart Mailbox that showed me only unread + flagged messages. This would allow me to read a message, and if I needed to regard it at a later point, I could just flag it (Cmd + Shift + L) and know that my mailbox would force me to see it until I unflagged the message. If you are familiar with Gmail’s new Priority Inbox functionality, this is system is essentially that (minus the algorithms that Gmail has that removes irrelevant emails from your Priority Inbox – eg, I get emails from a Cron system every night that Priority Inbox would exclude).
Mail’s Smart Mailbox functionality forced me to create three different Smart Mailboxes to accomplish what I wanted to accomplish, with two of them feeding my “CLS” Smart Mailbox which is my equivalent of Gmail’s Priority Inbox.
Something to note about this setup: When you’re in the CLS Smart Mailbox and you read an email, that email will continue to show in that mailbox until you either restart Mailbox or click to another mailbox and then click back to CLS. This is sometimes nice, but other times can be a nuisance.
I would highly recommend you trying out this email management system. It’s revolutionized my email world, and maybe it will revolutionize yours? If you have questions on how to set it up, feel free to ask in the comments.