Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Email Tools: If You Have Them, Learn to Use Them

Email

My little cartoon illustrates a common enough phenomenon: Not making any use of most of your email app's functionality. OK, so why is this an issue worthy of a post on my blog? For some people it really isn't something to be concerned about; you receive only a couple of emails a week, or nothing much depends on you being efficient or effective about dealing with however many you do receive.

But for the rest of us, you could very well be being bashed about the head and shoulders by an overwhelming amount of email simply because you haven't chosen to use the many features of your email application to get things under some sort of control. Just like Newman (from Seinfeld), you are completely stressed because the mail just keeps coming, it never stops, and then you've got Publisher's Clearinghouse day, and..., Newman!!

You get my drift. If you want to get a handle on your email, if you want to beat it back, or whatever metaphor you'd like to use, then it's time to use some of these email tools and tips:

  • Set Up Folders: Any email program, even webmail, allows you to create and manage folders and in some cases sub-folders. You may not want to sort a huge backlog of messages (many of which can be deleted anyway), but you can set up your folders and start putting messages you need to keep in the appropriate folder. That way you can know where everything is and get to the right message when you need to.
  • Delete Messages You Absolutely Don't Need: Be realistic about what you really will never read or need. Get rid of it right away. Otherwise the mountain of crapmail will grow to proportions that will leave you crying like a little girl. (Is that sexist? Ageist?)
  • Set Up Message Rules: There's noting like a good set of rules to bring some sanity to a chaotic situation. Email should follow rules too. Rules can immediately shunt messages to specific folders, flag them for your attention or junk them, depending on their sender, subject, or specific words in their bodies. This is a great tool that takes a few minutes to set up, but will save you hours in the long run.
  • Use Tags for Easier Searching: No matter how well you organize your email, there will be occasions for searching. If you tag messages appropriately, you will have a better time when you need to dig up that needle sitting there under a massive haystack. (The newest Thunderbird lets you create unlimited tags and apply as many of them as you want to individual messages.)
  • Set Up Signatures: Email signatures will automatically add text of graphics to the end of your messages, or you can create several and apply them each to particular messages where they apply.

These few ideas that I've shared should give you some inspiration to get your arms around your email. But remember, the first step is admitting you have a problem.

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