Here are some tips to consider to help make email more productive:
Choice of your email provider(s)
When it comes to email, you have a wealth of choices, both free and with a cost. Whatever you do, make sure your primary email is NOT one provided by someone like your cable company or other company as is likely to change over time.
I once had an account that belonged to a cable service provider which was later sold to another company then again to Comcast. After a while the old email addresses no longer worked and the emails there became unaccessible. I had to advise all my contacts that I had a new email address.
That leaves you with services like Yahoo Mail, Microsoft Outlook.com AOL and Google GMail. All have strong and weak points and everyone will have a favorite.
For your “real” email account, I suggest using your real name in a format like <firstname>.<lastname>@whatever.com. Easy for people to get it right and more business like than something humourous like FredFlintstonesBuddy@whatever.com.
I would suggest only giving this address out only to friends and those who you want to have your real email address. For instance, I use this address for LinkedIn.
Next you need a second account that you give to everyone else to capture all the advertising and other junk that pretends to be email these days. This is the one you give to all places likely to be sending you email your don’t really want to have to deal with.
Improve Your Mail Handling
There are a couple of schools of thought on mail these days.
Google’s approach is keep it all . . . they can help you find whatever you are looking for. Good, but it takes a little getting used to. And, since Google gives you 15 GB of space, it is certainly worth considering.
Then there is the old school approach of filing things in folders for later use (supplemented by searches across folders).
Either is fine but Google’s (after you overcome the apparent chaos of it all) takes less time to administer.
Most web and application email clients support creating rules that allow you to file mail based on sender, content and many other criteria. So, if you want all the mail from Uncle Al to go to a folder named FAMILY, you can just make a rule to do this for you. Rules can make sure things get put away nice and tidy for your later review. Google has already helped you with that if you use their web client as it breaks your incoming mail into Primary (regular in box), Social, Promotions, Updates and Forums. It does a pretty good job of choosing the correct folder but if you don’t like what it did, you can teach it to do it your way.
Another useful tool is tags. Tags let you group items together for later retrieval. A given email can have multiple tags so it is nice if you require more than one criteria to file something.
Finally, if you don’t need to receive the email, unsubscribe from the list. Do not unsubscribe to lists that you are sure you never subscribed to. Instead, mark them as spam. They may be fishing for valid email addresses.
Try to implement these three tips and start to simplify your email . . . and your life.
Remember, email is supposed to serve you, not enslave you.