I had a Yahoo! email address in high school. I bought a Gmail invite for \$7 off Ebay before it was publicly available. I paid for Fastmail to escape the greedy clutches of Google. I’ve bounced around a lot looking for the perfect fit.

But I recently switched over to HEY for email, and it’s working for me better than any other service I’ve used. I’ll share why.

How I failed before HEY

I wanted email to be a calm, quiet place for personal, meaningful conversations. I like the idea of email. It feels like the last synchronous way to communicate with people online, where it’s OK to not respond for several days.

I tried to create a calm inbox by setting up a private email address I kept for personal conversation. And I set up a public one to give out to everyone else like businesses and signups.

This worked for a while, but the separation never worked.

Who was worthy or unworthy of the secret personal address? What happens if someone with the public address graduates to the personal inbox? What happens when email threads in the public inbox turn more personal?

I got tired of debating in my head when someone asked for my address. Eventually I gave up and forwarded the public address to the private one. It was inevitable.

Sadly, this left me worse off than when I started. Instead of one email address with one junked up inbox, I had two email addresses with one junked up inbox and another I never looked at—a poor trade. I tried filters. I tried processes.. I gave Inbox Zero a shot.

I failed.

My personal inbox evolved into a cluttered mess of noise. It was like a junk drawer I only opened to find that tool I needed once every five years.

I quit cleaning it and let them pile up. Instead of deleting uninteresting emails, I left them as unread. I let conversations slide. I missed important emails. My dream of a calm inbox never got off the starting line.

How I’m doing after HEY

Granted, my life would be fine without email. I don’t need a calm inbox to have a good life. But I have to have email in this digital world. Not to mention I enjoy corresponding with people using it. I was open to a way to fix it.

I was skeptical of HEY at first. I’m a fan of the company that built HEY, Basecamp. I’ve read their books and listen to their podcasts. But I don’t use their software, and it was going to take a lot to get me to pay for email.

But after a couple of weeks of using it I switched.

It took a few days, but once I got calibrated to the HEY way of doing email, my problems almost went away.

My inbox was calm with little effort, and the only emails that showed up there were emails I was interested in—I was in a constant state of Inbox Zero. I started responding to people and initiating conversations. Most importantly I wasn’t missing important business emails that required my attention.

How HEY helped me

HEY blocks everything coming to my inbox by default and lets me pick who gets my focus and attention. For people and companies that I want see on a less frequent basis, I can send their emails to a separate feed or paper trail. They’re out of sight, but I can go look at them when I choose.

These features fixed my public and private email debacle. I can give my email address out and decide when they email if I want to let them through the door. And I can change it later per person or per discussion.

It’s not perfect

HEY is new. It’s not perfect. Searching isn’t great. Screening senders doesn’t always work for companies that use different emails and domains (e.g. mail15.example.com). Sending emails to the feed or paper trail means I sometimes don’t see something important for a while. And wish the notification for new emails to screen didn’t wiggle to get my attention.

There’s also the cost. I’m happy to pay for software I use every day, and I was already paying for Fastmail. But $200/year for my wife and me to use email is a lot.

Would I recommend it?

Yes. If you’re experience is similar to mine—if you multiple email addresses and more than 50 unread emails in your inbox that you never plan to read—it’s worth a shot. And if you decide to do it, give it a couple of weeks. Forward all your email there and buy into their method. Treat email like you would your snail mail, putting important ones to the side for later and not looking at the junk you don’t care about.