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Simplify your email

Joe Kissell | Feb. 3, 2014
If your email is completely under control--your Inbox is normally empty, filing new messages is a breeze, and you feel no anxiety at all about the number of messages you receive every day or the number you've stored over the years, you can stop reading this article now. For everyone else, I have a few suggestions to help simplify your email experience.

If your email is completely under control — your Inbox is normally empty, filing new messages is a breeze, and you feel no anxiety at all about the number of messages you receive every day or the number you've stored over the years, you can stop reading this article now. For everyone else, I have a few suggestions to help simplify your email experience.

Consolidate your accounts
Most email clients, such as Apple's Mail and Microsoft Outlook, can handle as many accounts as you throw at them, and of course it's often necessary to keep work and personal accounts separate. But do you really need email accounts from iCloud, Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, your ISP, and so on? You can simplify your email by picking just one as your go-to account and setting up all the other services to forward email to that primary address (so you don't need to worry about sending everyone a change-of-address notice).

That way, even if you're checking your email in a Web browser, you'll be able to see all your messages in the same place. Your email client will have less work to do, which can make it more responsive, while mobile devices will use less battery power and possibly even a bit less network bandwidth.

Trim your mailboxes
I used to have hundreds of mailboxes for filing saved mail, and then a few dozen. Now I'm working my way down to the single digits. Although separate mailboxes (or, in Gmail, labels) sometimes serves a useful organizational function, the combination of searching and smart mailboxes (or saved searches) can often accomplish the same thing. And, not having to think as hard about where to put a message, or where to look for a saved message, can save time and mental energy.

Some people advocate using a single Archive mailbox as a dumping place for all messages you've read and want to remove from your Inbox. I don't go quite that far, because I have certain categories of messages I can locate more easily if kept separate from the general population. Having fewer mailboxes makes filing much simpler, especially on iOS devices.

Your goal should be to have as few mailboxes as necessary to facilitate finding the information you need rapidly. For example, my few remaining mailboxes include one for Travel (so I can easily find things like flight itineraries and hotel information on my iPhone) and one for Money (so all my receipts and tax-related documents are in one place).  I no longer keep mailboxes for messages from individual friends or family members, because those are easy to find with a search or smart mailbox.

 

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