Many couples and families share email addresses and end up with a mess of an inbox with hundreds or thousands of messages. I have never shared an email address, but, as I am wont to do, I have given it a great deal of thought. The reason I don’t share: email addresses are free and readily available, isn’t life easier with multiple accounts? I have three myself, although really only two are necessary–a good address, and a junk mail/mailing list address. If, however, you really want to share, here’s how you might do it.
1. Get a Gmail address. (You should do this even if you don’t share an account, because Gmail is the best service I have used, and I have used many. Why? I could go on about it, but that’s not the topic of this post.)
2. If necessary or desirable, forward mail from your current account to Gmail. You can forward all the messages in your current account if you’d like, or just send new messages to Gmail.
3. Set up a label for each person sharing the account. Labels in Gmail are like tags. Most email services just have folders, and email has to be in one of the folders. Gmail has labels, and emails can have a bunch of labels. Even the inbox is just a label. The “archive” contains all emails. Email that doesn’t have any labels stays in the “archive” if it is not deleted.
4. When you first read an email, add the label of every person who should read the email. This could be everyone, just one person, or nobody.
5. When checking email, read all the messages labeled with your name. Delete your label when you’re done with the message.
6. If you are the last person to remove your name from the email, delete or archive the message. If you’re a family who likes to keep all emails forever, just archive them–there’s plenty of storage. If you like a tidier life, delete the message.
Once you get this working, there are various tweaks that could be made. You might add another label indicating whether the message should be deleted or archived. I recently added a “30 day” label for mail that I need to check on later but don’t want cluttering my inbox. Did that amazon.com order arrive as desired? Do I need to call about our insurance coverage again? I can periodically check the “30 day” labels to follow up when necessary.