email_folders.gifI’ve been a fan of IMAP e-mail for several years now. I can’t laud the benefits enough of having a centrally accessible e-mail server that I can manage from any number of computers, or devices. Alas, as nice as IMAP is, it’s not the panacea to all my e-mail woes. There are still issues that I deal with each and every day.

I still find myself under a daily deluge of mail and it’s a constant battle to keep my head above water. So it was with great eagerness that I read the series Inbox Zero over at 43 folders. The series had a ton of tips and I’m still digesting everything to see what fits me the best, but one idea seems to be taking shape – I have too many inboxes.

When I first got into IMAP, I loved the fact that each e-mail account had it’s own container. I could setup individual filters and archive things under only that account. I tend to compartmentalize my life, so this seemed to be a perfect fit, but after reading “Inbox Zero”, I’ve come to realize that this is not a good system.

For starters, whenever someone says that they’ve sent me an e-mail, I always have to ask which account they’ve sent it to. The reason is that it helps narrow down which “bucket” I have to check, since I have 7 inboxes in which to look. That is especially true when I check my e-mail via a webmail client, or via my mobile phone. Either tool takes forever and makes me less productive.

Then there’s the issue of redundancy. With so many inboxes that means that I have filters scattered all over each account, I have to train 7 times as many SPAM filters (because each filter manages a different account), e-mail archives are scattered over all accounts, and so on and so forth.

Clearly there had to be a better way, so as I read “Inbox Zero” this idea took shape like an 800lb gorilla slowly emerging from the midst. First I couldn’t quite make out what I was seeing, but when I eventually did, I knew something had to be done. So I’m embarking on migrating all of my e-mail accounts into one. I’ll keep all the e-mail addresses, but I’ll simply route them all to one central Inbox.

The key to making this work is mail filters and multiple identities. I can globally filter all e-mail coming in by address and then filter even further for specific needs. On outgoing mail, having multiple identities will allow me to keep my outgoing e-mail addresses straight as well.

The hardest part in all this is migrating all the archives. I’m going to have to migrate all of those folders and e-mails over to my main address, which will take awhile. So I’m focusing on one e-mail account at a time and I’m going with the lower traffic ones first. I expect that it will take a few weeks to slowly move everything over, but I’m looking forward to having everything more streamlined and efficient.

Wish me luck!