Inbox tabs are the devil (maybe)

yayoi-kusama3

(organized?) chaos. source

I’m comin’ atcha after catching up on over a month of Seth Godin’s blog posts (emailed to me daily), and simply deleting a backlog of Google Alerts and other third-party-generated notifications.

How did I let it come to this?

Inbox tabs, that’s how.

I have personal and work Gmail accounts, and they’re both set up with tabs that categorize the types of emails I receive. At work, I have: Primary, Social, and Updates tabs; at home, I have Primary, Social, Promotions, and Updates tabs.

It seems like such a good idea, doesn’t it? The email from important people like your coworker or your mom goes into Primary, while that sale alert goes into Promotions, and your “tobacco control” Google Alert goes into Updates. But here’s what really happens: in both accounts, my Primary tab is constantly coddled and culled, while all other tabs get neglected.

Almost every email in my Primary tab gets read nearly immediately, and taken care of soon thereafter (even if taking care of it means it gets deleted). Back before I had tabs, those updates, promotions, and social notifications all went to the same inbox and were swiftly dealt with. Now, it’s like the emails in the non-Primary tabs are multiplying as a result of my inattention, like hormonal teens over-enthusiastically enjoying the freedom of chaperone-less party. So I get overwhelmed and delete them en masse.

So what now? I moved my Seth Godin emails back to my Primary tab, but I’m not sure I want to get rid of my other tabs altogether. There’s something kind of nice about separating them out…and maybe it’s a technique in prioritization and getting the right work done.

I just don’t know. If you have inbox tabs, how to make sure to actually maintain each one? Or do you even bother?

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