What was your first ever email account? Was it Hotmail? Or Yahoo? Maybe even AOL.com?
My first email address was firstname.lastname@example.org. (Don’t bother emailing me there — Hotmail doesn’t exist anymore, and I haven’t checked it in 20 years!) I remember cycling through accounts for all kinds of reasons. Usually to pick a new username (probably something to do with Lord of the Rings) or because I needed an email address for all my high school band’s fan mail. (R.I.P. Black Market Trout Vendors, we never played a single show!)
These days, I’m still rocking multiple email addresses, but for more pragmatic reasons. You probably have at least two email addresses, and you might want to consider adding a few more.
Why you definitely need multiple email accounts
There are a bunch of reasons why you should have more than one email account. The most obvious is to have one you use for work and one you use for personal stuff. You needed your personal one to get a job anyway. And now that you have it, your work likely assigned you a company address. But there are other reasons too!
To protect your identity
Half the Internet seems like it asks for your email just to look at it. But if you use your real name for your email, you might not want to give just any site access to that address. Using your own name makes it easy for friends and family to find you and email you, but a pseudonym can make it harder for nefarious sites or people to identify or dox you — especially if it isn’t associated with your real name in any way. It also lets you try out hilarious new usernames!
To cut down on spam
Along those same lines, a lot of people choose to create a new email address to send to brands in order to protect their personal or work addresses from spam. That way, your work inbox isn’t clogged with emails about that pair of shoes you put in your online shopping cart last week.
Different email address for different purposes
I know we never got our big break, but making an email address for my high school band was actually a pretty good idea. If you have multiple businesses or projects (freelance work, for instance), having a different email address for each one helps you separate contexts and helps people know who they’re emailing.
For businesses, it’s even more important. Different teams or departments in your company need different group email addresses to manage incoming requests. Most companies have several email addresses for this — like email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, and email@example.com to name a few. Some will even make email addresses for various special projects to keep all the communication around it in one place.
How to manage multiple different email accounts
That sounds great! We’re all off to create 30 or 40 email addresses, right? Not so fast. You’re probably thinking (correctly) that managing all those accounts sounds like a huge hassle. You’d be constantly switching browser tabs or desktop apps. Logging in and logging out takes a long time, and it adds up.
That said, there are ways to get all the benefits with none of the pain. Here are a few tips for managing multiple email accounts:
1. Add multiple email addresses (or aliases) to one account
Whether you use Gmail, Outlook, or Front, most email apps let you create an alternate email name, also known as an “alias,” to send or receive mail.
How to set up an alias in Gmail
Go to Settings, and click Accounts and Import. Then go to “Send mail as:” and set up another email address. You can also Add a mail account under “Check mail from other accounts:” to create a forwarding rule. That just means your other account will forward all emails to the Gmail account you’re using. Then when you’re sending an email, you can click the drop down menu on the “From” tab to select which email you’re sending from.
How to set up an alias in Outlook
This all depends on what version of Outlook you’re on. On PC, you go to File > Add account. On a Mac, you go to Outlook > Preferences > Account. There’s another process for Android and another for iOS and a different method for older versions as well. It’s complicated! But essentially, it works the same way as Gmail, with emails being forwarded between addresses. You’ll also be able to select which email you’re sending in the compose window.
How to set up an alias in Front
Front is a little different. You can create and switch between multiple accounts, each with its own inbox, all within the same window. That said, Front can also leverage aliases. It’s easy to set them up, and there are two ways to get the benefits: you can create a unique shared inbox for each alias to manage them separately. This is for when you want to manage those emails separately from your other aliases. But you may instead want to manage a set of aliases together. In that case, you’re probably using aliases less as a way to organize email internally and more for for external visibility. You can do that to in Front!
2. Use tagging and folders to sort your emails
Now that you’re getting all the emails from a bunch of accounts in one inbox, you need a way to quickly and easily know which emails are for which address. You’ve created a problem by bunching all your different emails into one inbox, now you need to solve that problem. In Gmail and Outlook, you can create folders and rules to automatically tag and sort emails as they’re coming in based on the address it’s being sent to.
You can set up tagging rules in Front too, but they’re just to help you organize your personal inbox or to assign actions or processes in shared inboxes. But you don’t need to worry about all your emails getting bunched into one inbox because Front is already built to sort them properly by which email they’re addressed to right out of the box. You can read more about it in this handy guide about managing a shared inbox.
3. Practice good email discipline
I get dozens of emails on a good day. On a busy one, it’s way more. Counting spam, newsletters, notifications, and every other kind of email across my accounts, I could have a full time job just working through all my emails. Isn’t this all supposed to make less work for yourself? It can, you just need to give yourself a fighting chance. One of the most useful documents I’ve referred to time and time again since I started at Front is this guide to effective internal communications. It really gets to the heart of what email is for, when it’s best-used, and how to communicate better in general across digital media.
One of the healthiest things you can do — especially as you’re adding extra email accounts — is use email less. Apps like Front can take a lot of the work and effort out of email, saving you time. But that’s not enough. We challenged ourselves at Front to cut down on screen time, even going so far as to delete email off our phones.
Another simple way to spend less time looking at email is to disable notifications. Email has the benefit of being “asynchronous,” which means you can take your time answering them. Schedule a block of time on your calendar where you check your emails. Maybe it’s every three or four hours. Then close your email tab or app! If that sounds a bit scary, trust me. It’s going to be fine. Bad email habits took a long time to form, and good ones will too.
A lot of these best practices are even better if you’re using Front. It’s a new way to think about work email, and this blog explains why Front is a much more impactful way to manage email as a team.
Originally Published: 9 November 2020