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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.
I don’t enjoy being automatically subscribed to mailing lists when signing up for new services. I’ll navigate to https://unroll.me to unsubscribe after signing up to avoid having to find where to unsubscribe. If I’m unable to find the new service in unroll.me 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. 🚀