People receive a ton of emails nowadays, and there’s a good reason for that – email is actually one of the best communication services we have. Its end was (and is) many times mentioned, but the truth is that still is one of the most prevalent communication protocols and, more importantly, your main id in the internet.
Anyhow, I’m not going to neglect that email has its pain points – it’s easy to get overloaded with messages to read and respond to. And that’s why I’ve developed my own framework to deal with email. It’s actually very simple (which is part of the secret), and this has resulted pretty well for me. Here’s how it works:
Use different inboxes to isolate
I have two email inboxes. No, really, I use two inboxes in two different services – Outlook and Gmail. I use my Gmail inbox for all communications with real people (personal/profissional), and my Outlook inbox for every kind of service – every app that I register, every newsletter, home utilities, store member card, etc. (The only real exception here is Github and other few Whitesmith services, which activity I need to be alert of in almost real-time.)
This gives me already a great level of abstraction and filtering – I know what inbox matters, I know which one I should be more attentive to, I know which one I should bother to answer. I usually only check my Outlook inbox at the beginning and end of the day. Plus, and this is a big plus, I’m not afraid of having the Outlook email captured by spammers, since this is for non-important email already.
It’s true that I may be able to achieve this using just one GMail account and proper labelling. But labelling emails is itself a pain – I need apply a label each time I receive an email from a new source. I could use GMail’s tricks as adding the plus sign, for semi-automatic filtering: `firstname.lastname@example.org`. But: 1) Some services don’t accept those addresses 2) It may be hard to remember which address I use for certain service (“Was it +newsletters? Was it +services?”) 3) It’s easy for spammers to remove the + filter from the address.
Take action and archive
All my emails arrive on my inboxes’ main folders – they’re not filtered or placed in special folders. Then I try to treat them in a very First Come First Served approach – I read and answer to those I need to, and then archive.
Naturally, some emails will depend on external factors, or extra time to analyse. But currently, is very rare to have, at the end of a day, more than 10 emails in my GMail inbox.
Keeping up with email is not the easiest thing, and sometimes taking care of email cannot have the priority I normally give to it (every few hours). But today it has, and this framework has helped me maintain a sane life.
Applying it to other communication services
This framework as worked so well for me, that I’m thinking of applying it to other communication services too. Namely to my phone: Lately I’ve been noticing the increasingly effort from sales and marketing departments to get in touch with people through SMS, and even phone calls in some specific cases. Not only your number is added to their database many times without your consent, but it’s also hard to remove it (there’s no unsubscribe link).
Said this, I’m thinking of getting a different phone number for these cases (when I create Store Membership cards, etc). I’m still not sure if I should acquire a new sim card, or use services as Virtual Phone Line (suggestions for alternatives are welcome). This will mimic the level of abstraction I have for email.
As an extra tip to deal with SMS and phone call spammers, I will leave this app suggestion: True Caller, which has been a great pal blocking them.
What about you? What framework and tricks do you use to manage your email?