I made a new rule in Mail.app. I'm not a productivity expert, so you can just ignore this and go back to procrastinating at work by reading weblogs, but I think I discovered something that works for me.
The rule I made takes every incoming piece of mail and marks it as read. Now I am not summoned to my inbox by a red alert badge in my Dock, I go there when I need to check in with email.
Anyway, works for me. I like it.
update: my friend Ben points out that I can turn badge notification off, which is half of what I'm trying to do. The other part requires I keep track of when and what email is in my inbox and which has been dealt with. So I check mail in the morning, then again after lunch (as I just did).
Not having bolded messages calling to me to open and deal with them is nice.