Too many mailboxes… where is your mail going?

Where is your mail going?

Or better yet… how many places is your mail going?

The problem that many people experience is simple: too many mailboxes.

How many inboxes do you have to check?

  • Email – Work, Home, other
  • Text messages
  • Instant messages
  • facebook
  • Twitter
  • Voicemail – Cell, Work, Home
  • Google Wave
  • Inbox at work
  • U.S. Post Office mail
  • What else?

This is too much.  You spend so much time flitting from inbox to inbox that you never really catch up on any of them.

You may have too many mailboxes if…

  • Your inboxes never get to zero – Inboxes are not good places for storage or filing.  If you cannot keep pace, part of the trouble may not be the volume, but rather that you have distributed your messages over so many locations.
  • You have missed or forgotten messages – Do you ever realize that you have forgotten to check one of your inboxes for a while?  Several days? A week or more?  And when you do, you find that you have forgotten or missed messages?  You have let down friends or co-workers.  (Or even worse, clients!)
  • People are unsure where to contact you – Do your friends or colleagues wonder if they should email, text, or facebook you?  If so, you may be creating unnecessary confusion in your communications.

How many of  these things apply to you?

Why is it easy to have so many?

These days it is easy to have half dozen to a dozen or more inboxes.  Why is this?

Well, for one…there are simply too many options.  We didn’t use to have all these choices.  And it seems that new options are pushed upon us weekly.  Once upon a time, you were lucky if you had voicemail.  Another issue is that many of these services are cheap or in some cases free.  So it is very tempting to try the latest technology or service when it is not costing you anything.

Or is it?  The issue that people overlook is that while it may not be costing you money to try that new tool, it is costing you time.

And how valuable is your time?  If you knew that trying that new social media tool would cost you 2 hours a week with your family, would you still use it?

What are the impacts?

Some people think they are  important by having so many inboxes.  Maybe they feel popular having to check their email, Google Wave, and facebook.  But what impact does this complexity bring on their productivity?  After all, the most effective solution is the simplest, and complex systems often fail.

Some of the effects of having too many mailboxes:

  • Wasted time – The most direct impact of too many mailboxes is that you simply spend too much time checking them.  I watch friends and co-workers furious checking their work email, their personal email, and then Twitter and facebook.  What could you get done if you weren’t jumping from inbox to inbox.  It keeps you in reactionary mode all day.
  • Ineffective Communication – I recently started a conversation with a contact via Twitter.  It quickly moved to Google Wave.  And then suddenly, the conversation stopped.  It was apparent that this person did not use Wave that often and they did not check it often enough to continue the conversation.
  • Lost information – “Leakage” is the loss of information from your time management system.  Usually, it is due to inadequate tools to capture items.  But, having a bloated system with too many tools, can lead to loss of information due to disorganization and not knowing where something ended up.  Recently, a friend told me he lost my contact # because he was not sure which of his accounts had stored it in.

How to deal with too many mailboxes…

So, how do you deal with the fact that you have added too many inboxes to your life?  Here are some starting points:

  • Eliminate unnecesary mailboxes – It is best to have the minimum number of tools in your system.  Close accounts you do not use regularly.  I recently stopped using Google Wave.  It was not worth my time or the effort.  I do not use my work voicemail.  I let co-workers know to call my cell to leave a message.  Or even more effective, I forward my desk phone eliminating the other inbox entirely.
  • Find ways to consolidate – While technology has created much of this issue, it can also help us get it under control.  Use a “unified” inbox on your computer to see multiple communication streams at once.  I do this with “Mail” on my iMac.
  • Ensure you have access to your inboxes – We forget or neglect an inbox that we do not have the opportunity to check often.  Ensure that your physical inboxes are in locations that you frequent.  On the electronic front, smartphones have helped us.  With my Phone, I can check all of my email at once, from anywhere.
  • Choose the tools that work for you – It is important to choose the tools that you will use.  It can be a matter of personal preference.  I know some people that will not do text messages, and others that accomplish half of their professional job via them.  If you select the tools that you enjoy and find effective, you will be more apt to use them regularly.

So… how many mailboxes do you have?  And which do you neglect or forget?

4 thoughts on “Too many mailboxes… where is your mail going?

  1. I have too many – most of the ones you listed. I find that I don’t clean them out or deal with them because it’s just too much trouble. I do like the idea of filtering everything into one box. Do I need Mobile Me to do that on my Mac? I am also going to forward my work phone to my cell phone when I leave the office – it seems very efficient and then I don’t have to worry about calling in to listen to those messages too when I’m traveling.

  2. I have too many – most of the ones you listed. I find that I don’t clean them out or deal with them because it’s just too much trouble. I do like the idea of filtering everything into one box. Do I need Mobile Me to do that on my Mac? I am also going to forward my work phone to my cell phone when I leave the office – it seems very efficient and then I don’t have to worry about calling in to listen to those messages too when I’m traveling.

  3. I have bunches. If you want a service, you get an e-mail account. Want to use Yahoo? Google’s Blogger? Windows Live Sky Drive? Have a new ISP? Get mail accounts or no go. But also, I have reviewed mail services, so I even made the problem worse.

    One for professional, one for Weblog contacts, one for fun, one more for that other Weblog… But I do believe firmly that people should have more than one in case of a service failure and for special needs.

    Glad I have Thunderbird to manage the ones I really want to use. But even then, I mess up and send from the wrong account, confusing my recipients. Not T-bird’s fault, I just don’t pay attention.

  4. I have bunches. If you want a service, you get an e-mail account. Want to use Yahoo? Google’s Blogger? Windows Live Sky Drive? Have a new ISP? Get mail accounts or no go. But also, I have reviewed mail services, so I even made the problem worse.

    One for professional, one for Weblog contacts, one for fun, one more for that other Weblog… But I do believe firmly that people should have more than one in case of a service failure and for special needs.

    Glad I have Thunderbird to manage the ones I really want to use. But even then, I mess up and send from the wrong account, confusing my recipients. Not T-bird’s fault, I just don’t pay attention.

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