Managing Email

10 Tips for Managing Email Effectively

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.
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.

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.

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.

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.
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.
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.

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.
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.

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.