Inboxes overflowing with newsletters and other irrelevant stuff are probably among the worst things when it comes to email management (disregarding people who don't know how threads or subjects work). But there's a simple way to get around some of this clutter using a trick Gmail offers.
Gmail works hard to make sure emails arrive at the right person. That's why the service ignores certain symbols, like dots (.) and plusses (+) in addresses, but it still notices that these emails are different from the standard spelling. When you utilize this behavior and combine it with Gmail filters, you can set up a super simple set of rules to direct unimportant emails away from your inbox.
The straightforward way to automatization is using the plus sign. Just add it to the end of your username and add any letters or numbers behind it you find helpful, like so: username+[email protected] (We're using username as a placeholder for your actual user name here).
Handy for newsletters, like our own.
You can test this by signing up for any newsletter using the address syntax above. Once you've received the first email to this address, you can set up a rule for any future incoming emails addressed to it. To do that, click the search bar at the top of the Gmail web interface, search for your custom email address (enter "to:[email protected]"), and click the create filter shortcut at the bottom of the search window. You can then create a new label named "Newsletters" and automatically transfer any incoming mails addressed to your +newsletters email to these, skipping the inbox altogether. You can manage these filters in your Gmail settings under Filters and Blocked Addresses later.
To create more filters, you can use other kinds of custom addresses, like [email protected] for food delivery, [email protected] for online stores, [email protected] for hotels and flights, or any other category that makes sense to you.
This approach makes it easy to remember which address you're using for which service, and you only need to create one rule for each of your custom addresses — no need to manage rules for all possible incoming email addresses from dozens of businesses.
If you use a password manager (which we highly recommend), you don't even need to remember these custom addresses for all your services. These extra email addresses are also an additional security measure if your primary email address is publicly available and someone tries to use it to gain access to a service you're signed up for. They'd also need to guess the right custom email address other than the password.
Should you want to be less open about these rules, like when you communicate with friends or clients, you can just give out your email address with a different variation of dots sprinkled into it, like [email protected] or [email protected]. Just keep in mind that some wise guys may know that they don't need to add dots and could omit them altogether, so this filtering method is more prone to error. The same goes for the plus variation, of course, though I'd hope that people would understand why you're asking them to send emails in this format. In any case, once you introduce other people rather than just automated systems, the setup becomes more error-prone, so I'd recommend using it for newsletters, sign-ups, notifications, order confirmations, and other automated messages only.
If you need a temporary email address for some hotel or café Wi-Fi or for websites that require you to sign up before you can view content, you can also use a service like temp-mail.org, which I recently discovered. You don't need to give out your email address at all then.