How do I use email? Email is ubiquitous; most have methods for taming our inboxes.
I won’t add to the legion of how-to articles specific to email clients. In the following paragraphs, I’ll explain how I keep my inbox clean.
My system primarily applies to any email client.
Filter All the Things
I’m a zero inboxer that uses filters to achieve inbox nirvana.
I create filters with prefixes.
- MOVE — Move the message to a folder.
- DELETE — Delete the message.
A Few Folders to Rule Them All
In the beginning, I created a folder for everything. It was a mess. I realized less is more.
I use folders to narrow my search scope.
I use Gmail to hide all folders unless they contain unread messages.
I use an Accounts folder for any account-related emails. I let orders, receipts, Etc. Live here.
As I embark on efforts like replacing a fence, recovering from a car accident, or other “fun” efforts, I throw them in a subfolder of the Efforts folder. It helps me find past discussions and follow up on tasks.
Once an effort is complete, I remove the folder to reduce clutter.
Example Sub Folder:
As a member of the tech industry, I receive recruiter mail. I move recruiter emails to a Career folder for safekeeping if any Bad Things Happen ™️.
I have a folder named People for friends, family, colleagues, Etc.
I keep most subscriptions in Inoreader by subscribing to RSS feeds that I can tune by keyword or disable. If no RSS feed exists, I filter notifications to the Notifications email folder from systems like GitHub, Trello, and other software.
I minimize email notifications and prefer mobile app notifications.
Email Is For Business
Communication tools like Slack help me tame my inbox. Chatter stays in Slack, tasks in Trello, and formal communications in email. If I need to act, I create a Trello card from my email client and Slack. It helps me separate the concerns and retain sanity.
I Keep ‘Em Separated
I’m using a handful of email accounts for the distinct roles I play. My inboxes are single-responsibility inboxes. I have one for work, one for myself and my family, and some for various side projects.
I create a new email account for every job.
I log into job-specific tools with my work email to avoid email chaos when consulting and switching jobs. The work email is distinct from the email assigned by an employer.
I avoid automatic mailing list subscriptions.
I use https://unroll.me/.
After unsubscribing from email, I move it to an Unsubscribed folder. I block the senders from previously unsubscribed sources.