If you sit down and really think about the type of data associated with you as a person, most of that data will probably be communications-based, that is, all of that “stuff” that you generate or consume in the course of communicating with others via email, social media, etc. In this post, I’m going to focus just on email-based communications.
It’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole of spending a lot of time filtering through your email, or getting to the point where you have 1,000+ unread messages, because you just don’t have time or energy to even delete all the ones you don’t really care about or to “do something” with the ones you want to come back to later. Most tips on dealing with this overwhelm glut will focus on things like filters, folders, and labels as your solution, and those things can be really handy. Even so, your real problem could be that you don’t have enough email addresses.
If you have an email address for work, you should have at least three (3) total email accounts.
This approach, which I’ll call the 3+ Accounts Approach, will not only alleviate your overwhelm by giving your brain the breathing room it needs to focus by priming it with the information for what type of communication to expect and thereby better equipping it to deal with what it’s about to face (including having time to relax!), but will also help you save time and increase productivity. Oh, and if you’re worried that I’m replacing a glut of emails with a glut of accounts that are just as cumbersome to manage, I’ll address how that’s not at all the case below.
How does this 3+ Accounts Approach work?
Basically, everyone should have at least two email addresses, that is, a personal email and a spam/subscription email.
Your personal email address is the one you give out to the people you really care about keeping in touch with. I call this the Family and Friends Account. You should guard this email address carefully. It should never be used on websites, or handed out to people you meet casually on the street. By taking these steps, you’re working to create a work-free and spam-free space.
Your spam/subscription email address is the one you use to sign up for promos, rewards, newsletters, and the like. I call this the Junk Mail Account. Yes you’ve signed up for most of this, but there’s also a good chance that the folks you signed up with are going to share your address with their partners, and some might even sell your information. The frequency of these requested updates and offers might also be drastically higher than you expected, but might still contain some things you actually want to keep getting, which is what prevents you from unsubscribing.
Bonus Tip: If you’ve been using only one email account up until this point, it’s easier to switch your family and friends to a brand new Family and Friends Account than it is to try to separate out all of the junk to a brand new Junk Mail Account. Why? Simply because you’ll be starting the new Family and Friends Account fresh and untainted and unshared by the subscription history. A close second is that these people probably care about staying in touch with you, too, and so will be motivated to make the switch.
The third email, your work email, is just for work. If you have a side gig or you’re trying to establish a new business, you should definitely have an email just for that. Tapping the depths of my creativity, I call this the Work Account. You should only ever use this email address for work-related communications. This could be posted on your company website, it can be used on your business card for networking events, etc. Having a space that’s been cultivated this way will help you focus on work matters. (Seriously, the best way to not get distracted by that free queso offer at work is to keep that offer in a completely separate account, the one that you check only when you start making dinner plans.) This approach will also help you to preserve the corporate veil by further keeping your personal life separate from your work life.
That’s (not actually) a lot of Accounts to manage…
Having just one email account is a natural manifestation of two primary factors:
- we want all of our emails consolidated in one place so that it’s easier to stay on top of things, and
- we don’t want to have to remember a lot of different account information.
If you can just remember your 3+ Accounts and when to use each, you’ve done most of the management already. Since most of us are primarily checking email on our phones, I’ll note that many email apps for your phone will allow you to switch between your different email accounts without leaving the email app. So the 3+ Accounts Approach actually gives you all of the benefits of “consolidation” by keeping all of your accounts accessible within the same email app, while also adding the benefit of streamlining your inboxes.
This is a time saver. This frees up all of that brain space you’ve been using to think about and filter through all of your unread email. And this eliminates all the related feelings of overwhelm.
If this approach helped you, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!