In his productivity bible Getting Things Done, David Allen says that you should minimise the number of collection buckets for all the information coming into in your life. (Collection buckets include a paper in-basket, email inbox, voicemail box, feed reader—anywhere new "stuff" channels into your day.)
You should have as many in-baskets as you need and as few as you can get by with... If you have too many collection zones, you won't be able to process them easily or consistently.
A few different services and tools can consolidate your inboxes and collection buckets, from email to voicemail and even paper and snail mail boxes. Let's take a look.
Single phone number with GrandCentral: Ever since I switched my main number over to a GrandCentral number, I never looked back. You can ring all or any subset of phone numbers you've already got on a per-contact basis with GrandCentral, or send calls to voicemail or screen them as messages are being left. Voicemail notifications come straight to your email box (if you work primarily in email, like I do, this is priceless), and you never have to worry about giving out your number. See more on how to consolidate your phone lines into a single number with GrandCentral.
Single email address with Gmail and Google Apps for Your Domain: This may be the fourth Gmail post of the day, but what the hell. Since Gmail can fetch and send mail from any POP-enabled existing address, it's a fabulous way to consolidate old addresses into a single place. Don't want to give up your custom domain [email protected] address? Google Apps for Your Domain gives you Gmail without the @gmail.com domain in your address.
Send paper to your digital "inbox" with the ScanSnap: This one I haven't gotten set up for myself yet, but it sounds like the best instant, scan-paper-to-PDF solution on the block. Over at 43 Folders, blogger Ryan Norbauer describes his Fujitsu ScanSnap workflow for a paperless existence. Definitely giving this a try myself in '08 so I can ditch the paper in-basket and use the digital "inbox" folder on my computer exclusively.
Snail mail: Okay, so most people don't have the problem of multiple mailing addresses. But if you're a freelancer who moves around a lot—or you've got a small business you'd like to have its own address—I can't recommend getting a PMB (Private Mail Box) enough. Sure it'll cost you a couple hundred a year, but the freedom to give out your mailing address without worry and even move without having to change your address is awesome.
How do you minimize the inboxes in your life? Tell us about it in the comments.