So I have a new quandry. I have one computer (a nice, pretty new MacBook Black, that does everything I want and then some.) and I have two lives. No not like that, but my computer is both the place where my paying work gets done, and it's the site of much of my creative output happens. Now, keeping work and play separate is a challenge for many people, even when who have different tools, but it's a particular challenge in my enviroment.

My biggest concern is that if I'm constantly aware of what's happening in my work email box, I feel like I'm always working, and it makes it hard to concentrate on writing these blog posts. And the inverse is true too: if I get a message to a non-work related listserv it's hard to let that linger when I'm working.

Now arguably the solution to this would be to have two different email accounts and systems. Except that I use mutt, and procmail and my favorite text editor to write email and I really would have a hard time abiding by another solution. Also adding the need to check another email box wouldn't really fix my problem, because there's a chance that I could miss something crucial in real life if I unplugged from one email or the other. So the two accounts solution is basically out of the question.

I just need a simple way to control my "context" (in the Getting Things Done terminology) vis a vis my email box. So here's what I cooked up. I should disclaim that I use the mutt-ng build of mutt which includes a sidebar in the mutt interface.

Basically what you need to do is have two different .muttrc files (where your settings live), one for "work" and one for "play" (I called it "standard") But rather than have two possibly divergent files, here's what I've done.

Split your .muttrc into two parts. The first includes everything that includes refrences to mailboxs. Those lines look like this: mailboxes =<mailboxname. In a second file put everything esle.

Name the everthing else file .muttrc_core and put it either in your mail folder or in your home dirrectory. Duplicate the mailbox folder so there are two copies, and edit each one to suit. You probably want your drafts/sent/inbox folders in both contexts, but not your work mailboxes or your hobby listservs. Lets name the files, .mailboxes_work and .mailbox_standard, and put them in the same place as the "core" file.

Now here comes the trickery. In $HOME/.muttrc put the following:

# All the good Mutt settings
source /path/to/.muttrc_core
# which mailboxeses to list in the sidebar
source /path/to/.mailboxes_standard

And in a file named .muttrc_work

# All the good Mutt settings
source /path/to/.muttrc_core
# which mailboxeses to list in the sidebar
source /path/to/.mailboxes_work

Now, the trickery, open up your .bash_profile or .bashrc (which ever you use...)

alias muttw='mutt -F /path/to/.muttrc_work'

And you're done. Now you have to intentionally open up your work email, so you don't feel like you're always on call, but you get the delightfullness of only having to worry about one email account, particularly if you're good about choosing which email boxes go in which folders, and about using procmail to filter out most of your email in the right ways.

You might also imagine how you could use a similar fix to control how you address email based on work/home context, or even estabilish different commands for various key bindings based on context, and the best part is that al all of your core settings stay the same and are centrally located in one place. How nifty is that?