I’ve been working (for a long time, but more lately) on both reducing what I see in my email and newsreader as well as differentiating the two.
I’ve decided that my email (Gmail) is for personal communication, as in mail that people specifically send to me, and important computer-generated emails like bill payment reminders. My newsreader (Google Reader) is for news and alerts that while interesting to me, are not crucial. This aligns with the fact that I always check my email first, and that if I had to, I could just mark newsreader items as read without any real consequences.
I am using three things to do this: one policy and two web-based tools.
Policy-wise, I examine more closely what emails I get. In the past I might have deleted an email from some company or website that I wasn’t interested in, but now I take the extra time to go to their website and either unsubscribe completely or uncheck certain parts of what they send me.
I already use my newsreader to subscribe to feeds when possible, but a lot of sites still only have email newsletters. There are a few services which will allow you to convert emails into RSS feeds and I’m finding MailBucket to be the best. I create a filter in Gmail so that all mail from the newsletter are automatically marked as read, moved to my archive (so they don’t show up in my inbox) and forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org. That way, I don’t have to give these websites an alterate email, they still use my gmail address, and I still archive all those emails in Gmail, but I will never see them there unless I want to. Instead, I subscribe to http://mailbucket.org/that-newsletter-name.xml in my newsreader, and I see all the content there. Perfect.
Getting items from my email to my newsreader is one step, but then there are many feeds I read for which I am only interested in some of the items, not all. For these, I create a Yahoo Pipe that takes in a particular feed and filters it by excluding items which match various criteria or only including items that match. I unsubscribe from the original feed and subscribe to the filtered version, immediately reducing how much stuff gets into my newsreader. Very nice. There are some minor drawbacks to this, such as that anything which uses my newsreader’s data won’t be perfect, such as Google Reader recommending feeds to me based on what I already read, and for Google Reader’s crawler telling websites how many people have subscribed to their feeds. Either way, tiny problems compared to the great benefits.