E-mail has become an essential communication tool, both for work and for personal communication. However, if you recieve too much e-mail it can become overwhelming, but there are few things that you can do to make your inbox more managable and make e-mail something that doesn’t cause you grief. Over the past few years, I have tried many things to attempt and make my e-mail more manageable, but the following five tips are the ones that have have found the most useful in managing my inbox. I will admit that I may go a little over board when it comes to organizing my email, but I prefer to have everything well organized and easy to find.
1. One Inbox to Rule Them All
For those like me who have multiple e-mail accounts, I highly recommend that you consolidate all those accounts into one inbox so you can get all your messages in one place. My solution for this is using Gmail, which allows you to receive all your mail accounts and even allows you to send messages from all your accounts as well. Gmail does limit you to receiving mail from only five accounts, this should be enough for most people and is more than enough even for me. Gmail is my favorite solution but, it is not the only solution to have all your mail in one place, both Hotmail and Yahoo Mail also allow you to do this as well, and you can also use traditional mail clients like Outlook, Thunderbird and Mail on the Mac for this as well. Personally, I find webmail to be the most effective for me mainly because of all of Gmail’s advanced features which you can only get by using the webmail but, that is just a personal preference. By having only one place to go to get all your email, it becomes much easier to read all your messages and make sure you never miss a message.
2. Use Rules/Filters
The reason I use “Rule/Filters”, is because it depends on the client and what they call them. I will call them filters because it is what my client, Gmail, calls them. Filters automate sorting e-mail; you can sort messages by who they are sent to, who they are from, subject, or words in the message. I personally use a lot of filters to sort all my email and have many labels, which I will talk about later, that I sort my email into. By taking the short amount of time it takes to create the filters, your email will more or less organize itself and helps you be more efficient in checking your email.
3. Use Exchange
Although Exchange is something mostly used in the professional world, some consumer email providers including my favorite, Gmail, offers the use of Exchange email on mobile devices. The reason Exchange is so great and why so many business users use it is because as soon as a message is received, it is instantly pushed to all your devices. Exchange also pushes your contacts and calendars as well so you have access to all your most up-ro-date information at all times. By using exchange, your e-mail to be instantly accessible anywhere you are and with iOS it can even push a notification of new e-message so you know the second a message is received and hopefully e-mail won’t pile-up. I know this works great for my Gmail account on my iOS devices and have heard the same for Gmail and Android, but other e-mail providers do offer it as well. On iOS, setting up Exchange mail is very easy, there are a set of very straight forward instructions posted here. Exchange is mainly for those with a smartphone, but it is really help those people and I encourage everyone with a smartphone to research if their email provider offers Exchange email for their mobile devices because it makes keeping in sync very easy.
4. Use Folders and Labels
There is once again a naming discrepancy here, more traditional mail clients call them folders, while Gmail refers to them as labels. The one advantage to using labels is that you can mark a message with more than one label, while you can only have them in one folder because it moves the message to that folder. Either way, folders or labels can make organizing all your mail easy and can sort them out automatically but using filters. Theres a lot of different methods to organizing your messages, so find a method that works for you and stick with it! Searching is great, but if you want to see all your messages for work or school or something, folders makes that easy especially when you combine them with filters. You can also use folders combine with filters to sort mail from each of your accounts into separate folders.
5. Prioritize Your Inbox (Gmail Only)
One of my favorite features of Gmail is a Google Labs feature called Priority Inbox. Once you enable Priority Inbox in the Gmail settings, it will detect what messages are and are not important and will learn from your reading behavior you can also use filters to teach your e-mail what is and isn’t important. The inbox part of the Priority inbox takes the “important” email and puts them on top and then has your “less important” in the lower half of your inbox. If an email was marked important and you don’t want it to or if an email was not marked important and you think it is important, there are button on the top of each message and inbox to manually correct the message or messages and then Gmail will remember that next time you get that type of message.
These are my top five tips that I personally use to manage my email and keep it somewhat organized and make checking my email something I don’t dred. Not all these tips work for everyone, but try some of them out and see if this can help make your inbox more organized.