10 Tips for Managing Email Effectively

By Skellie

Whether you are a blogger, a freelancer or a designer, you probably get overwhelmed when managing your email. This communication tool was supposed to make our lives simpler, but more often than not it does exactly the opposite.

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In this post I’ll be sharing 10 tips you can use to tame your email. You’ll learn how to handle your domain email with Gmail, organize your incoming messages, process your inbox in batches, communicate quickly and manage the contacts effectively.

1. Handle your domain email with Gmail

One of the best things about owning your own domain is that you get to have an email address like me@mydomain.com. Unfortunately, most email clients that come with your hosting account look and function like they were released in 1999.

It’s actually possible to send and receive emails via your me@mydomain.com address through Gmail, and the process for doing so is quite simple.

  1. Create a Gmail account for your site.
  2. Head to your current client and forward all your incoming email to the Gmail account.
  3. In your Gmail account, go to Settings –> Accounts. Under ‘send mail as’, click ‘Add another email address’. Enter the details for your me@mydomain.com account.
  4. Complete the verification process.
  5. Make your me@mydomain.com address you default for ‘send mail as’.
  6. And you’re done.

2. Create useful labels and folders to keep you organized

Not every email is as urgent as the next, though it can be difficult to keep track of those you need to answer quickly. Develop a labeling system that helps you get things done. Tag your most important emails with ‘Reply ASAP’, or an equivalent. Less urgent tasks can be marked ‘To Do’, while the least urgent ones can be tagged with ‘Later’.

I also think it’s important to archive as many emails as you can. If you’re using Gmail, it’s not like you run the risk of running out of space, and it’s worth it in case you need to retrieve details or contact someone again in future.

To make retrieving emails easier I’d suggest removing immediate action tags like ‘To Do’ and replacing them with tags for the purposes of archiving (when you’re done with the email). If it’s correspondence with another blogger, tag it ‘Networking’ and archive it. If it’s to do with guest-posting, tag it ‘Guest-Posting’, and so on.

3. Process emails in batches

A simple way to increase your productivity is to turn off auto notifiers. It’s simply not necessary to check email constantly throughout the day, and doing so will regularly interrupt more important tasks. After receiving thousands of emails I can safely say that I’ve never received one that couldn’t wait 12 hours or so.

Process your inbox in batches. Make it once or twice a day, and try to get your inbox down to zero. This will allow you to plow through the rest of your productive tasks without constant interruption.

4. Read it, answer it

Many people have the habit of reading all the emails before actually replying to them. Sometimes they might even wait a couple of hours before getting back to these previously read emails.

This method is ineffective for several reasons. First of all you might forget about some emails altogether. Once they are marked as “read” on your inbox, they will get mixed with all the others that you have already replied to.

Secondly, this process will also consume more time, since you will probably need to read each email a second time before remembering what you will need to say in the reply.

What would be a better approach? Simple, whenever you read an email, answer to it right away.

5. Keep it short

This benefits you and the person on the receiving end of your email, particularly if that person is busy like you.

  • Cut out unnecessary words and sentences.
  • Address the essential: not everything warrants a response.
  • Use paragraphs liberally. It’s easier to read, and makes your email more approachable.

6. Keep it sweet

  • Greet the correspondent by name.
  • Use a smiley if appropriate.
  • Sign-off with your name. It can change the tone of your email, and only takes a second or two.

7. Re-read once

You can go back and edit typos in a blog post or article, but you only get one chance with emails. It’s important that your meaning and expression is clear, especially when making pitches or networking with other people.

Also, remember that spell checking is not enough. Typos and mistakes that form other valid words (e.g., lose and loose) will not be corrected by the spell checker. Proofreading is key.

8. Build an address-book for networking

  • Add other bloggers.
  • Add people you have worked with.
  • Add people who have skills you might need.
  • Add people you might be able to call a favor from.
  • Add social bookmarking friends and power-users.

9. Use bridging emails

I’d like to meet one web user who hasn’t spent time composing a thoughtful email, only to have it completely and utterly ignored. In most cases, the receiver has a good excuse, but that doesn’t change the way we feel (mainly because we never heard said excuse!).

In other cases, someone you’ve emailed might eventually get back to you, but only a few weeks after you categorized them as a snob who ignores their emails and pledged never to visit their blog again.

A quick and simply solution to ensure people never feel this way about you is to use a bridging email for queries and requests you won’t be able to answer for a while. Send them a sentence saying you’ve received and read their email, but don’t have the time to answer at the moment. If you know when you might be able to answer, provide a broad timeframe. A few days? A few weeks? A few months?

Taking a few seconds to acknowledge their email can mean the difference between leaving a positive or a negative impression, even if you never find the time to answer. Readers appreciate that you’re busy. The main thing is that they don’t feel completely ignored.

10. Create a dedicated signature

Make sure that your signature contains functional links. It might be a link to your blog, website, or online portfolio.

Blog readers are so used of having their emails ignored by busy A-list bloggers that they’ll half expect you to do the same. Proving them wrong with a polite response can leave them delighted and feeling very positive about you. Your signature should effectively capitalize on this positive feeling.



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39 Responses to “10 Tips for Managing Email Effectively”

  • CompuWorld

    although I implement these tips but 1 and 9 were truly if help for me..

    I use gmail but never thought of forwarding my mails to my legacy email account. Will work on tis quick as this will help me get a more easy to remember email address..

    Bridging email style was good. There are times when we tend to ignore those emails which aren’t of use to us. Replying to those emails too could get us good reputation..

    I do not agree with 3. Process emails in batches..you see many times when I am very quick at replying to emails I do get favorable response from the other side. People at the other end are happy to see that the blogger replies quick. I do check my emails after every 6 hrs but I have my notifier ready to inform me of any mails. It just takes few minutes to read them n reply them. Else I start them to reply later..

  • Julian Schrader

    I don’t agree with 1 since I use IMAP on my server, Mail on my Mac (and in a few days on my iPhone) and MediaTemple offers a really good webmail interface — I don’t need it, but it’s there. And everything’s in perfect sync, so why bother with GMail?

    Here’s my “9 Tips for Better e-Mail Productivity”: http://julianschrader.de/20070823-9-tips-for-better-e-mail-productivity/

  • Daniel

    I need to try IMAP one of these days.

    I do use GMail for all my domains and accounts though, and personally I find it one of the most effective ways to manage all of them in one location.

    They also stay stored and organized, which is different from what I would get with the standard email client offered by my hosting company.

  • Naomi Dunford

    This was insanely useful. I just got started with GMail since a client does Google Talk and I’m drowning. I’m all for labels and tags, but I keep looking at my screen, crying “Where’d my folders go?”

    I’m going to go in and experiment with the tags and labels a little more. I’m sure that will make a difference. Maybe I’ll even get converted.

    Thanks for a great article.

  • gadgets

    I like point three, checking email frequently and responding as each email comes in can definitely slow productivity. Also, when you respond in batches, there may be questions that come in that are very similar in nature and can be effectively responded as a batch rather then individually.

  • Dana Mark

    In response to tip # 2, “Create useful labels and folders to keep you organized,” I like to use filters to sort out my important and not so important emails. As an example, I have several filters for my affiliate merchants. I have my Gmail set up so that those affiliates which are automatically posted through RSS feeds are tagged with “Affils – auto” and then automatically archived. When I see I have new emails in my “Affils – auto” folder, I know I don’t have to look at them right away because they are already taken care of through the RSS feeds.

    I have another filter which archives and sends emails to the “Affils – active” label. These are the ones I need to check soon to see if there are some time-sensitive specials I need to post. Others filter out those affiliates that have been declined, or whose programs are ending soon. With that filtering system I know immediately which affiliate emails I have to check soon, and which can wait until I have more time, and which I can ignore completely. I set up filters each time a new email comes in to set a label, or even to delete it if I so choose. By having the filter automatically archive it, my inbox is usually empty and I can check labels to see if there are any I need to look at immediately. It works for me. Your imagination is the limit here!

  • Steve

    Thanks for the tips. With 43 domains to manage, email does come in thick and fast somedays, so anything that helps is a bonus to me. Hopefully I can shave an hour or so off the working day soon 🙂
    I have used GMail for just over a year now, but never really considered it as a ‘main client’ as you suggest in point #1.

  • engtech @ internet duct tape

    I hit a fun snag last week — make sure your “secondary email address” on gmail is a valid account. I had my account stolen for a little while because it was pointing to an old email address on a domain that changed ownership.

    Archiving so that your inbox only contains items that still need action is another good tip.

  • Mark Alves

    Bit Literacy, http://bitliteracy.com/ by Mark Hurst covers #2, #3 and #4 in detail. He emphasizes the importance of not using your in-box for storage–respond to the message, delete and/or file accordingly, but don’t store it in your in-box. It’s a great system.

  • Neil Galloway

    Useful. Having an email account on Google is definitely a good way to do this. I have been using them for a long time and using my reply address as a permanent forwarding address that I have.

  • Codrut Turcanu

    Wow – great tips, I love practical advice that we can instantly use.

    Keep these coming.

    I think I’ll write a follow-up on this topic on my blog too because there’s a real demand from people who want to get rid of information overload and manage their time better.

    Stay tuned.

    Cheers,
    Codrut Turcanu.
    “How To Succeed Against All Odds!” Break The Ice…

  • Daniel

    Mark and Engtech, good tips, I will check that site.

  • Skellie

    @ engtech: Just realized that what you’ve said is something I’ve been doing without thinking about it and thus not appreciating just how insanely useful the habit is.

    Make that tip number 11 🙂

  • damselseo

    Great tips you got from here! I have try tip number 1 “Handle your domain email with Gmail” It would be possible to send and receive emails via my domain. Yet it’s just simple.

    Creating labels and folders is what I usually do but let me try that label “Reply ASAP” “To DO” and “Later” . Thanks!

  • Megan Vaillancourt

    Great Tips. Very useful information. I intend to use some of these time saving tips.

    Thanks for the info

    http://www.PassportMentors.com

  • CaribWebDev

    great post, most of these tips I use often

  • Dean Rieck @ Direct Creative Blog

    I know some people, including my wife and friends, who don’t use folders at all. And they don’t delete. They just let all the e-mail pile up in their in-folder. Even if they have thousands and thousands of messages, they refuse to delete or file.

    What some people don’t understand is that this isn’t just inefficient, it can become a huge burden to your computer and eat up massive amounts of hard disk space, especially with large attachments. My aunt’s computer ground to a halt one day because of a mountain of undeleted files and e-mails.

    For the sake of your sanity and your computer, delete and file regularly.

  • Davosian

    In response to tip no. 1: you can actually get “Google Apps for your domain”, which allows you to use the gmail user interface with your own e-mail domain (@yourdomain.com, not @gmail.com). That way you are hosting your e-mails with Google, meaning you also get a great administration interface (including mass import) to create aliases, new addresses and mailing lists.

    Here is the link: http://www.google.com/a

  • Jennifer F.

    OK, it’s official: tip #3 changed my life. Seriously.

    I was waiting to leave a comment to see if it actually worked, but I’ve been doing it for a week now and it’s the first week in recent memory that I’ve actually been on top of email. I thought I’d read all the “managing email” tips out there but had somehow never come across this idea. This is especially huge since my site has to do with religion, so I often get people emailing me with very personal stories, and it’s so horrible when it takes me weeks to reply.

    Anyway, THANK YOU! I’ll be raving about this on a links blog that I run.

  • DT

    Great list, and thanks. I found read it and answer it, and proof read it once the 2 best points.

  • SEO Genius

    Nice article Daniel 🙂

  • Shanavas

    Great post. I will now use Gmail

  • Mukundan Srinivasan

    Managing email list is important if you are a seller or in a marketing job. Useful post. Well written.

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