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How to manage in-box 'bacon'

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Web watchers expect that this outsized helping of bacon will continue to pile up. Shipping an e-mail costs 1/100th of a cent, 1/2000th the cost of bulk postage rates. And according to Brightwave Marketing, on average, every dollar spent on bacon brings in $43.52 in sales. No wonder Forrester Research expects e-mail marketing budgets to climb by a third to $2 billion in 2014.

Bacon may be good business, but Mr. Vallier says it also drags on his productivity. So he devised a few tricks to keep his bacon consumption under control.

"The biggest thing that I recommend to people is filters, filters, filters," he says. Most modern e-mail clients, such as Gmail or Outlook, can automatically flag bacon – marking a message with a colored tag, placing the letter immediately into organized folders, or deleting it on sight.

For example, Vallier used the "mail settings" in the top-right corner of his Gmail screen to categorize incoming messages as soon as they arrive. The website can automatically label e-mail based on who sent it, the subject line, and whether certain words are or are not included in the letter. E-mails from his wife get a bold tag, so he'll notice them right away. Bacon receives a light blue sticker, visual shorthand for "not urgent."

In other situations, families hunting for a good deal on a new television could set their in-boxes to highlight any bacon that mentions "TV" or "plasma." Expecting parents can flag everything containing the word "baby."

If you're wary about handing out your e-mail address to retailers, Hotmail, Gmail, and Yahoo's paid Plus service each allow users to set up disposable e-mail accounts called plus addresses.

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