Email is the end-all of online communication. Everything you do online is connected to your email address in some way (when’s the last time a sign-up form didn’t ask for an email address?). But when you are a small business owner or an entrepreneur, your email can get full and ugly very fast. Keeping it organized automatically is essential to keeping your email manageable and useful.
Although these tips focus on Google’s Gmail service, most of these tips are applicable to any email client and for any heavy emailer.
Create labels for different activities:
The first step is to create inboxes/labels/categories for all of your activities. If you’re a contractor, have one for each of your clients. If you are a member of several social networks, have a label dedicated to friend notifications and requests.
Use filters for as much of your email as possible:
Your inbox should be the LAST place an email goes. If it can be categorized and it isn’t incredibly urgent, then it shouldn’t be in your inbox. Gmail allows you to create filters to automatically categorize items by email address, subject, and content.
As an example, set any weekly newsletters you receive to receive a “newsletters” label and make sure that all of those emails are set to skip the inbox. Keep setting up filters as needed. By the end of this, all that should be reaching your actual inbox are new email contacts, cutting down on your clutter.
Create a special filter for urgent emails:
If there are certain keywords or email addresses that tend to require your immediate attention, make sure they have their own label, always hit your inbox, and are always starred as important.
Use Google Labs features:
If you haven’t played with Gmail labs, now is the time to do it. Gmail offers a great deal of tweaks and services. Some of the best include: Offline browsing, task lists, placing your signature above replies, quoting selected tasks, and the Mark as Read button.
Install Better Gmail 2 for Firefox:
Better Gmail 2 is a Firefox extension that compiles some great enhancements for Gmail. It’s a must if you are a Firefox user. Some of the best features include attachment icons, filter assistant, automatically showing message details, and showing the BCC and CC lines automatically.
Set aside specific time for your email:
Email is a time drain if you’re constantly looking at your inbox and interrupting your focus. Allot specific times to check your email, and one slot a day to reply to all of it. It assures that you don’t miss emails and it forces you not to interrupt your work with email.
Use your email less:
Finally, make sure to use your email less. Wait, what? Yes – one of the primary reasons email becomes cluttered is because everyone CCs you on unimportant emails. Reply only to those that are important and make people less dependent on immediate email responses. The conditioning will help them only send emails when it’s important, saving you time.
Hopefully you will find that these tips and tools help you clean up your email and decrease the amount of time and energy you need to put towards it. Your time is better spent building a product than constantly cleaning your email.