Inbox Zero

The image above is possibly the sexiest thing a knowledge worker can see; especially on a Friday afternoon.

But “Inbox Zero” is initially hard to achieve and, once you obtain that nirvana,  you need a pretty kickass process and a lot of discipline to keep your inbox under control. The risk of it reverting back to a poor man’s KANBAN, (an overflowing, rainbow-vomit coloured frenzy of flags, labels, and unread mail), is very real.

We all receive too many emails and one of the major reasons for this is Graymail. As I explained over on The Next Web, spam is inimical to your soul but Graymail is legit,

The fact that it is legit doesn’t mean that graymail won’t fuck with your chi, but that’s partly on you because you opted-in at some point. I’m talking about notifications like the latest eBay special or the eleventy trillion updates posted to Facebook in the past week that you, quite genuinely, could not care less about.

So, when you’re out there in the wild, navigating all the W’s, one thing you really need to watch out for is the (usually default “checked”) box that references something about future notifications from the service provider and their “partners”.
I’m extremely careful, bordering on anally retentive, about ensuring that box is not selected prior to submitting a form. Yet, I still receive emails that seem legit, but that I did not opt-in for.

Seems Legit

Naturally, I want to identify which asshat has taken my email address and shared it around like a cold sore during O-week so I can imagine smiting them while I unsubscribe from their service.

So, how does one catch them out? By this simple little trick:

Ingredients:

Method:

Presuming you’ve already purchased your domain name and configured your MX records to have your custom username@yourdomain.com email address, the simplest way to achieve this is to add a domain alias (also known as a “catch-all”) to your list of email aliases.

In the atmail cloud, you do this by logging into your Webadmin dashboard and navigating to

Services > Email Aliases

From here, select Alias Type: Domain Alias (Catch-all)

Enter your domain into the “Domain Name” field and then your destination address into the “Forward To” field and, finally, click “Add Alias”.

If I owned domain.com and the account I wanted to forward to was username@domain.com then the final set-up would look like this:

atmail cloud, alias settingsClick to enlarge

A catch-all alias is a wildcard. It works by catching and forwarding anything sent to a non-existent email address at your domain to a designated account. So, with that in mind, you probably don’t want to use your primary email address as the destination for your catch-all. Instead use a secondary account that you can configure for access through your fat client or switch to via your web interface. (Keep your primary email reserved for people and communications you genuinely care about).

With the catch-all configured, you are ready to execute! This is the simple bit.  Whenever you subscribe to a newsletter or sign up to trial a new web service, simply enter an email address at your domain that will remind you of the service you are signing up for. For example, if you sign up for the Banana newsletter, sign up with banana@yourdomain.com (provided, of course, you don’t have a legitimate account already using that username).

This means all newsletters Banana sends you will end up in your catch-all inbox addressed to “banana@yourdomain.com”. If you see an email roll into that inbox that you did not sign up for, check the “To” field.
If the sender of that unwanted email is NOT Banana but the email is addressed to “banana@yourdomain.com”, then you know Banana has either shared or sold your details to a third party… Leaving you perfectly positioned to unleash the fury! (Or to simply unsubscribe from Banana. Whatever works for you).

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