Emails, Emails, Everywhere!

Over the last few years, my friends and I have used craigslist for almost everything. One friend recently decorated a nursery for a new baby almost entirely with craigslist finds. Another friend regularly places ads for roommates on craigslist to rent the extra bedrooms in his house. Yet another friend supplements his income by selling collectibles on craigslist. More friends than I can count have done job-hunting on craigslist.

In my experience, you can tell an active user of craigslist from his or her inbox. You’ll find emails from a long list of senders. You’ll find conversations that extend over multiple emails, and messages which were skipped over and thus never received a reply.

While craigslist (like similar online classified services) does offer an option to create an account rather than manage all of your transactions via email, this only helps manage some of the email traffic related to creating an ad. Setting up an account helps you avoid the administrative emails from craigslist involved in posting an ad, but the replies to a posting still get sent to your email account.

I know a lot of people who have a specific email account they’ve designated just for posting and replying to ads, or they use “disposable” email accounts for specific ads, especially if they anticipate getting a lot of postings (“help wanted” ads, for example, receive a great number of replies!).

But creating extra accounts can be a hassle, and this still doesn’t guarantee that you’ll have an organized and easy-to-access record of the emails you’ve sent and received. Maybe you’re contacting multiple sellers in order to purchase a particular item, and you want to find the best item available at the best price. Do you have a record-keeping system to track all the emails you’ve sent out, as well as the replies that come in?

I’ve seen the inbox of my friend who posts ads for roommates on craigslist, and it isn’t pretty. Because he lives in an area where rental housing is at a premium, he’s always inundated with replies when he posts an ad. Some people email him multiple times, even after he’s told them “no” and deleted their initial email. Other times, he finds someone who seems to be a perfect fit for the room, and he realizes later that the person sent a follow-up email that he somehow missed and didn’t reply to before the person found another rental.

My friend makes do by quickly replying to—and quickly deleting—messages to keep his inbox clutter to a minimum. In the process, he’s had missteps like losing someone’s phone number. He gets enough interest for his rentals that it’s not a big deal, but what he sees as a small hassle could be a serious problem to someone else.

Who hasn’t lost track of an important email and lost something else because of it? Personally speaking, I’ve lost several opportunities announced by email. I’ve also lost track of countless coupons and deals I’ve meant to print out and use: the emails from various retailers I patronize were buried in my inbox, and the deals had expired by the time I remembered them again.

We’re all looking for ways to be more efficient in our professional and personal lives, and many times the answer to finding greater efficiency isn’t in discovering completely new methods of doing things but rather in finding tools that help us streamline the methods of working and communicating we already use every day. Sending, receiving, and organizing our emails can account for a lot of our time each day—or these activities can account for just a little bit of time if we can find and use the tools we need.

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