Jeff Bailey
Written by Jeff Bailey
Learning resources, opinions, and facts about technology.

How do I use email?

Reading Time: 4.1 minutes
Listen to this post

How do I use email? Email is extremely ubiquitous, and many of us have our own methods for taming our inboxes.

I won’t add to the legion of how-to articles specific to using email clients. In the following paragraphs, I will lay out my approach to keeping my inbox clean. My approach applies to any email client and applies to anyone that uses email. I am not saying any of my methods are rocket science. Some may benefit from these ideas along with myself as my approach changes.

Filter All the Things

I make heavy use of filters to keep my sanity with the deluge of emails I get at work. I’m a zero inboxer, and using filters helps me achieve my goal of inbox nirvana.

A Few Folders to Rule Them All


At the beginning of my journey with email, I had a folder for everything. It was a complete mess. Over time I realized that having a few folders is plenty. I use a folder as a starting place for searches to narrow the scope of emails I’m searching for; if I’m looking for something, it makes it much easier.



I have an accounts folder where I scurry any account-related emails. Within that accounts folder, I have a few big-ticket folders like Amazon, Insurance, and Orders. I have a filter that puts all the Amazon emails in that folder to find old support correspondences easily.



As I work on things like replacing a fence, filing away emails about 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 the effort as it moves through my task pipeline.



I have a folder for any correspondence I have with friends, family, colleagues, etc. If people are a big part of my life, I have a special folder just for them.



As a member of the tech industry, I get quite a bit of recruiter mail. I ferret away any of those emails for safekeeping if any Bad Things Happen ™.



I keep most of my content consumption in Inoreader by way of RSS feeds. In the event that no RSS exists I send notifications to the Notifications folder. Notifications from systems like GitHub, Trello, and other software go in there as well. I keep the email notifications to a minimum and prefer app notifications to email.

Email is My Business


Using tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams has helped me tame my inbox. Chatter lives in Slack; actions live in Trello; formal communications live in my inbox. If I need to act upon anything, I’ll create a Trello card from my email client and Slack. It helps me separate the concerns and keep myself sane with the high volume of communications I deal with daily.

I Keep ’em Separated

I’m using a handful of email accounts for distinct roles I play. My inboxes are single responsibility inboxes. I have one for work; I have one for myself, my family and some for various side projects I work on.

I create a new email account for every job and use that email account to access software tools I use at work. If the tools are internal tools that I’ll never use at a new job, I’ll log in to tools with my work email. When I was consulting, and I switched jobs within months or less, this method helped me separate my concerns and avoid email chaos.

Unsubscribe It


I don’t enjoy being automatically subscribed to mailing lists when signing up for new services. I’ll navigate to to unsubscribe after signing up to avoid having to find where to unsubscribe. If I’m unable to find the new service in then I’ll find where I can manage notifications and remove myself preemptively.



I’ll update this post as my approach changes. It’s simply an accounting of my approach to email as a tool. If you benefit from this approach, then great; if not, share your approach or tell me why mine is wrong. 🚫

It’s not rocket science. 🚀