Who is this for? Those who are deciding between merging all of their inboxes or keeping their various email accounts separate.
On a recent episode of Mikes on Mics, my co-host, Mike Vardy, and I discussed our respective approaches to managing our email inboxes. Both of us maintain multiple accounts spanning our personal and professional worlds, but Vardy keeps his various email inboxes separate while I prefer to combine everything into a single inbox.
Tomorrow I will touch on the exact tools and tactics I use, but to start I want to explain why this approach works for me. I also want to give some background which may help you decide if this approach is for you.
I receive a fair amount of email. I average over 100 messages a day. I have multiple addresses that center around my job, a few for various web projects, a purely personal account and what’s known as a bacon account.
There’s nothing wrong with using multiple inboxes. In fact, Vardy makes a valid case for keeping things separate, but here is why I opt for a one inbox approach.
Processing More Less
Getting into a regular Inbox Zero practice helped me stay on top of email but was a challenge with multiple email accounts. Early on I always felt as if I was constantly neglecting one inbox or another. I also felt like too much time was spent jumping between accounts (and remembering which accounts had and had not been checked). I went down to three accounts that consolidated emails from work, my personal life and my various web projects, but even this felt like too much. So eventually I rolled everything into a single account. Even though I potentially see more emails in a single sitting, I only have one place to check and feel better about checking it less often. I also never worry if I am neglecting any one particular email account.
One Person One Voice
Despite the fact that there will often be a clear difference in the way that I talk to a friend, a stranger or colleague, I don’t like to over think the tone I take when responding to emails as I process my inbox. By having personal and professional emails sitting side by side, I don’t give myself enough space to worry about which part of my persona should respond. I just focus on the best possible response. Some people prefer to have one voice for personal emails and another for professional correspondence. There’s nothing wrong with this. I’ve just found it to be more efficient to blur the line.
One Search To Rule Them All
As my personal and professional lives continue to merge and as my memory grows ever worse, I’ve come to count on search more than I would care to admit. When I had multiple accounts, I often found myself jumping from one to another seeking a message from a friend who sent a message to my work email or a colleague who accidentally sent a work email to my personal account. One inbox means one repository. When I search, all of the correspondence with that person comes up. It gives me a more comprehensive archive of messages and saves me from ever having to wonder where a specific message lives.
Making One Inbox Manageable
While I plan to talk about the exact tools I’m using and how you can go about setting things up in an upcoming post, there are a few general best practices for applying a one inbox approach to your work.
The first is to ensure that whatever desktop or mobile applications you use properly handle what are known as domain aliases. These allow you to control the reply-to address with little to no thought. You can set these up so that messages automatically respond from the same address they were sent from, you can group multiple accounts so that they respond to a single address or you can have everything respond from the same email account.
Consider setting up filters that group related accounts. I use a Gmail label to wrap up all of the work-related emails. This way, if I really need to focus or have a heavy load on a particular day, I can just filter out unread messages using my Work label and not see a single unnecessary message.
Mercilessly unsubscribe from nonsense. A one inbox approach will increase the amount of emails you see when you check email. Mitigate this by unsubscribing from any and all unnecessary notifications, superfluous email newsletters or spam that finds its way into your inbox. This takes effort in the short term, but in the long run it leads to far less nonsense that to process.
Getting To One Inbox
This approach takes a bit of setup, but once it’s up and running, you can send, receive and store emails from all of your accounts in one place with ease. If you’re at all curious about how to setup a single email inbox, check back for the next post or subscribe for free to the feed for a walkthrough of the tools I use to effectively manage all of my email in a single inbox.