Jeff Bailey
Written by Jeff Bailey

Learning resources, opinions, and facts about technology.

How do I use email?

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

I won’t add to the legion of how-to articles specific to using email clients. I will explain my approach to keeping my inbox clean in the following paragraphs. My system 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 more manageable.

After using Outlook.com for years, I use Gmail, so I hide all my folders by default unless they contain unread messages.

Accounts

📃

I have an accounts folder where I scurry any account-related emails. I let orders, receipts, Etc. live here.

Efforts

💻

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 action as it moves through my task pipeline.

Once an effort is complete, I remove the folder to reduce clutter.

Example Sub Folder:

Career

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 ™.

People

🧑‍🤝‍🧑

I have a folder for any correspondence I have with friends, family, colleagues, Etc.

Notifications

🔔

I keep most of my content in Inoreader by way of RSS feeds. If 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.

I prefer RSS to an email subscription, and I forward necessary RSS entries to my inbox.

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 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 consulting and switching jobs within months or less, this method helps 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 https://unroll.me to unsubscribe after signing up to avoid having to find where to unsubscribe.

Install the mobile app and enable notifications if you want to be hyper-vigilant.

If I’m unable to find the new service in unroll.me then, I’ll see where I can manage notifications and remove myself preemptively.

After unsubscribing from email, I move it to an Unsubscribed folder. I block the sender if I see an email from previously unsubscribed sources.

Conclusion

📨

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 strategy or tell me why mine is wrong. 🚫

It’s not rocket science. 🚀