I recently listened to an episode of ATP where they discussed how Gmail works differently than a regular IMAP email account.
In Gmail, messages are labeled. You can set as many labels as you want on a message and those labels are a way of filtering messages later. This has the advantage over a folder structure where the message can only exist in one folder at a time.
I’ve used Gmail since it was an invite only beta. I used labels a lot to categorize my messages. But when the iPhone came out I started using Mail.app and pretty much stopped using labels. Almost 15 years later, I’ve realized that I don’t miss labeled messages and that I almost never go back to look at old messages in the folders/labels. In fact, I rarely look for messages older than a few months and a quick search in my archive turns anything up almost instantly.
Everyone has their way of organizing and my way is to have three buckets for incoming messages:
For outgoing messages I have:
I don’t use any other folder structure than those. Search is so good these days that I don’t manually dig for messages anymore.
I hope you don’t either.
Update: It is worth noting that I separate my roles with separate email accounts. For instance, my work email is completely separate from my personal email. I’ve found this helps me separate my roles logically instead of funneling everything into a single email account and then dividing it up with folders/labels.