Managing Email: Multiple Inboxes, Burner Accounts, and Best Practices
On any given day I manage five separate email accounts for work, school, academic life, junk email, and this blog. This may seem like overkill - and it is - but contrary to popular belief I've found the more email I can parse out, the better. The concept is no different from advice organizational experts give when cleaning a room:
"Split your room into sections and work on one section at a time until it's all clean."
Thus compartmentalizing emails into separate accounts allows us to better manage our inbox.
The Power of Separate Inboxes
On my phone I have three separate email clients: Apple Mail, Gmail, and Boxer. My Apple Mail app includes my personal and school email accounts; the Gmail account houses my blog email; and the Boxer app hosts my organization's email account. Keeping my email accounts separate allows me to identify the purpose of the email before I even read the subject line.
But that's not the end of the story; my junk email account lives a life of its own. If you don't have a a burner email account, or two, you should get one. I keep mine completely separate on my iPad where I've deleted all work-related email accounts. Every week - or whenever I get bored - I go through and clean my burner accounts. These included email subscriptions to websites, stores, and newsletters. Occasionally I'll forward an email to my personal account if I see something interesting.
Once you've organized your email into separate accounts, there are some general principles that may help you handle your inbox.
Turn off notifications. Mute notifications for all of your email accounts. Getting a chime every time a new email arrives is the ultimate distraction. If you absolutely need to get immediate notifications, only turn on notifications for your most important accounts. Alternatively, the Outlook app does an eerily good job of only notifying you when you get emails from important contacts.
Create email signatures in a text expander. Sometimes I get school emails in my personal account and visa-versa. Text expanders are great for a number of reasons but I use it for my email signatures so I can respond to an email from any account and still use the appropriate title.
Respond to emails at night. An email should be more like a letter than a text message. Sending emails during the day - unless you need an immediate response - can lead to a long chain of messages back-and-forth and derail you from more important work that needs to get done. Responding at night, forces you to send concise messages and gives you an excuse not to respond immediately if they are quick to reply. Other productive giants like W.E.B. Du Bois reserved the evening for sending correspondences.
You can also use a feature like Boomerang to schedule your emails to send at a later time and date.
Unsubscribe from listservs. Our inboxes quickly fill up with random emails from companies and marketing firms trying to sell us something. By law, they have to include an unsubscribe button in the email. The unsubscribe button is almost always found at the bottom of the email in small print. Click that button and free yourself from email overload!
Strive for Inbox Zero. The concept of Inbox Zero is so daunting there are books dedicated to helping you eliminate messages in your inbox. Instead of trying to tackle all your emails at once, commit to one email account at a time.
How do you manage your email?