Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tech Tuesdays: Managing Email Overload

So many days, I just want to declare email "bankruptcy" and tell everyone that if they are waiting for a response from me they should email me again. So lately I've been working on trying to better organize my emails. Here are some things I've done (and I welcome ANY email organizing/management tips you guys have too).

First, I use gmail. Many of these are gmail specific. And if you use any other email my #1 tip for managing your email is, SWITCH TO GMAIL.

With that out of the way:

First, use Labels. Labels are like folders in other email programs. But instead of placing one email in one file (and sometimes it's hard to know which file it fits in best) you can apply a label to each email. And one email can receive more than one label, so no more choosing which fits best. Here's a screenshot of the labels I currently use...admittedly I need to clean this up a bit.

First, learn how to use Gmail filters. They will save your life. A filter is like having little elves manage your email for you---you tell them "hey whenever you see an email that looks like this slap a label on it and remove it from my inbox" or "attach a label to all these emails, but leave them in my inbox to get my attention". To read a more technical description on how to use (and set up) filters, click here.

A Few Ways I use gmail filters:

  • Labeling e-bills that I receive with the blue colored label "Statements" so I don't ignore things like remembering to pay my credit card because it got buried under other emails

  • Labeling Blog Comments and archiving them (so they don't bog down my email, but I can quickly locate them and see what you all have to say)

  • Getting all the Facebook notifications/emails in one spot. I first control in facebook what I want to receive emails on and then from there I label all incoming facebook messages with the label "facebook" and archive it, just like the blog comments

  • Label and archive junkmail--not spam, spam is different, but junkmail goes in a separate place. Because I like getting coupon codes from Bed Bath and Beyond or Pottery Barn or whatever, but I don't want them junking up my email inbox

Gmail Labs also has a lot of gmail features they are testing out, but are still in "beta" which means they may remove that feature at any time or it may have bugs they haven't worked out, etc...
  • Tasks This is basically a to-do list you can add to your email home page, it appears in the lower right hand corner and can be minimized. This helps reduce my email because it's helped me stop sending myself as many emails to remind myself of things and add them more to this list. This transition is still in progress, but helpful.

  • Quick Links I used to use this one more and need to get back in it. It allows you to perform a search in your gmail and save that search to a link, so instead of retyping in those precise search terms you can just click the link. I used this to quickly bring up my blog comments, or facebook messages (which I filtered out of my inbox as described above)

  • Right-side labels I almost forgot that gmail default is to have all your chat, labels, etc... all on the left sidebar. This allows you to put some in the right hand side.

  • Multiple Inboxes This one is, admittedly, a little crazy. It splits your main inbox screen into multiple inboxes. In the left side is your main inbox and in the others you can place other types of emails. I know my husband has one inbox dedicated to all emails he receives from me. I have my facebook in one, blog comments in another, email drafts in another...

  • Archiving your email I cannot believe how many people do not understand and/or use the archive function in gmail. So most email programs have folders, where you file away emails or else you delete them. In gmail, once you are "done" with an email you can label it (if you want) and then archive it. Archiving means it goes into this...well...archive. You can find it again by searching at the top of the page or by going through your labeled emails, etc...Trust me, it will reduce the growing pile in your inbox without getting rid of that email forever.
So there you go, some ways I try to manage the VERY overwhelming volume of email I receive from all over. Leave any additional questions/suggestions in the notes because I think everyone can use a little help being more organized in their email.

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