Five Tips to Organize Your E-mail

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Everyone in business laments the amount of e-mails they get. It is one of the biggest productivity blockers, but at the same time it is necessary. I will venture to guess that even if you don’t work on the computer, your e-mail inbox is often overflowing.

Some people have a goal of inbox zero. However, I find that my e-mail inbox often doubles as a to do list. And we all know how those are never quite finished.

I use Gmail, so my tips will be tailored to that e-mail program. If you use something else for your e-mail, you may still be able to use a few of these ideas. You’ll just have to find out what they’re called in your e-mail program. Here are a few things that keep me from drowning in e-mails:

Forwarding

I have a few different e-mail addresses to manage. I get messages on several different e-mail accounts as well as monitor my teen’s email account. Except for my work e-mail, I forward everything into my personal inbox. That way, if something needs attention I’m able to get to it more quickly.

To implement this strategy go to Settings at the top right corner of your Gmail inbox and then Forwarding. It should be the option on the top of the list.

Tabs

When Gmail came out with the tabs and automatically sorted e-mail for me, I was a bit skeptical. They usually do pretty well at sorting, though. I wish I could rename the tabs myself, but I have my own system using theirs.

I use the Primary tab for things I need to process today. I do try to check this at least once a day and bring it to inbox zero.

For emails needing a reply that can wait at least a week, I move them to the Social tab. I’m trying to train myself to only deal with them once a week in order to avoid wasting a lot of time answering e-mails.

I use the Promotions tab as it was intended. Gmail does a good job of sorting promotional e-mails under this tab. I just scan and delete as soon as possible. If it is something I want to refer to later or print a coupon from, I leave it under that tab.

The Updates tab is where I keep things I want to watch or read later. I’m subscribed to some business blogs, for example, with articles I want to read. However, if I stop in the middle of my work day to read them all, I would never get anything done. I save them under this tab to look at all at once in my down time.

Since I use social media more than Yahoo groups now, I don’t use the Forums tab for its intended use. This is where I filter all e-mails from my other accounts.

To implement this strategy, simply drag the e-mail to the tab in which you want it. Gmail will remember to put it there the next time you get an e-mail like it.

Labels

If you aren’t a nerd like me, the Tabs are probably enough organization for you. However, I like to answer e-mails in batches, so I also label them.

I don’t use labels in the Primary or Forums tabs. I either deal with them immediately or move them to the proper tab.

In the Updates tab, everything is labeled either TO READ or TO WATCH.

If I order something online, I label it ORDER and put it under my Promotions tab so I will remember to check on it periodically until it arrives.

As for the Social tab where I keep all my weekly e-mails, I label it with my own set of labels such as PIANO, BLOG, WRITING, NEEDS REPLY or TO DO.

To implement this strategy, click the down menu on the Labels tab above your open e-mail message. It will give you a place to type a new label or choose an old one to apply.

Canned Responses

Gmail tests out new ideas and warns that they may change at any time. Such is life on the Internet. One idea I hope they keep around is their Canned Responses.

I don’t use this in my personal e-mail much, but I do use it in our business e-mail and my work e-mail. If you tend to send a lot of the same type of e-mails, you may want to try it. Just type the message you want to send more than once, and you can send the same message to another person with a few clicks. No need to even copy and paste.

To implement this strategy, go to Settings and then Labs. Find Canned Responses on the menu and click Enable. To create your Canned Response, open a new Compose screen. At the bottom right of your e-mail, you will see a small drop down arrow. Canned Responses is on that menu. You can create a new canned response or use one you’ve already composed.

Archives

If you’re like me, you have deleted messages accidentally before.  I have my settings to only empty trash every so often instead of right away. I’ve pulled up many a message I thought was gone forever.

You may also want to pull a message up in the distant future, but you don’t want it cluttering your inbox right now. That is the beauty of the Archives in Gmail. I archive more messages than I delete. As a result, I can pull up old messages from a few years ago to see the last conversation I had with a client, reader or acquaintance.

To implement this strategy, click on the down arrow symbolizing the Archives on the top of your open email, next to the Spam button. 

What are some of your favorite e-mail organizing tips?

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