10 Simple Steps to Organised, Efficient Email
Use Google Gmail Address
First off you don’t have to use your broadband providers email address. In fact we recommend you don’t because generally their feature set is poorer than the free alternatives and if you decide to switch provider for whatever reason you really don’t want to have to switch email address, its a real pain telling all your friends, updating those online profiles etc. Gmail by Google is a great free online tool for everyone who wants a easy to use email service with some really powerful features that you can grow into. We have compared it to the other big players like Hotmail and Yahoo mail and found Gmail to be the easiest to use, have the best 3rd party tools and connection support and the most powerful and useful features. It’s free and simple to sign up for an account and offers 7Gb space. Your Gmail account can also be easily connected to your desktop email software or mobile phone. For connecting your account to your computer or phone we recommend using IMAP rather than POP3 which seamlessly syncs everything between your different email clients including sent folder, deleted folder, unread messages and custom folders.
If you have several addresses move them into one place
If you have accumulated several email addresses over the years and find yourself checking different accounts, you’ll be glad to know there is a better way. You can use your Gmail account to read email from other email accounts and you can also set it up to be able to send email from any of your other accounts too. So by all means keep several addresses but manage them all in one place. To import other inboxes into your Gmail go to the Settings link in the top right hand corner, then click on the Accounts and Import tab and then hit the Import mail and contacts button.
To add another sending email address to your Gmail account stay on the Accounts and Import settings tab and hit the Send mail from another address button. Google will send an email to this address to verify it is yours to use and then you’re flying.
Unsubscribe from stuff you don’t care about
This may sound obvious but we’ve all stayed subscribed to newsletters and newsgroups that we never read. Why not go through all your recent newsletters and be ruthless – is the information really helping you or is it just wasting time? If you want to be more productive then a media diet can be an effective way. All newsletters by law should have unsubscribe links on them so lets make use of that otherwise just reply to sender and politely request to be removed from the list.
The inbox is meant to be the place we can quickly scan and process all of our new messages. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of using it as our email archive and file system. The problem with this is that it soon becomes very difficult to work out which emails you haven’t yet processed and you loose control of your correspondents and become disorganised. For truly productive emailing try checking your email just a couple of times a day and any new emails can be either deleted, responded to quickly or organized into folders for future action.
Organise emails into folders
Rather than leaving your emails in your inbox and loosing those important messages under a pile of spam try using email folders. You can create folders within your mail account which are synced with your different email clients software if you connect using an IMAP connection. As you process your inbox move emails you want to keep into one of these folders to stay organised and headache free.
Use email rules to automatically filter emails
Go a step further than manually organising your messages into folders and set up email rules which automatically move mail from your inbox into folders based on anything from sender to subject. You can even filter mail based on whether the sender is in your address book or whether or not the email contains an attachment. You can set up these rules in Gmail or in your desktop email client such as Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird and Apple Mail.app which all have powerful rules features.
Track sending purpose with custom address
If your email address is firstname.lastname@example.org you will also get messages sent to email@example.com and barry+newsletter@gmail. Infact any text following the plus sign will be ignored and sent to the start portion of the email address. This is super useful for setting up automatic rules based folder filtering. So you can subscribe to all newsletter using firstname.lastname@example.org and setup a rule in Gmail to automatically put messages sent to this address into a newsletters folder. Great for taking back control of all those subscriptions.
Keep Email Polite, Clear & Short
Now to composing email. Keep emails short, relatively informal (yep even for business), clear and most importantly polite. We are all busy so be friendly, polite and brief and while you’re at it spread a little happiness.
Business users should add a simple signature
Add a brief signature to your emails with simple contact information including your job title, website, twitter and phone number. Perhaps a physical address is important too for your business. Again all the popular email clients allow you to create multiple email signatures. Keep it brief, keep it simple, avoid using images and use limited styling. Differentiate between business and personal email and don’t send business signatures out to your friend – it just looks wrong. If you really need a corporate disclaimer on your emails keep it right at the bottom below the signature but think about whether you really need it and what impression that gives to the reader.
Use email templates
Gmail and Microsoft Outlook both come with email templates built in. This means you can pre construct a bunch of short, friendly and polite emails and use them as a framework for your email sending needs, that way you type less and it helps make your emailing day quick and painless. Mail.app on the Mac doesn’t include this feature but the neat MailTemplate plugin gives you this for a small price.