Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Time Management for Busy People: E-mail Management

Homeschoolers and school educators are some of the most pressed people for time. We don't want to waste any precious time on rummaging through virtual stacks of e-mail messages. I want to spend a few minutes extolling Google's Gmail e-mail platform that you can use for free and dramatically increase your e-mail productivity.
  • Gmail has arguably the best spam filters in the industry; you won't have to sift through your messages marked as spam and only real messages will enter your inbox.
  • Gmail organizes messages with the same subject line in the same "conversation" -- which is similar to a thread in a discussion board. You can see the entire conversation history in one easily organized spot.
  • Use POP and IMAP to condense all of your e-mail accounts into one Gmail account. Access all of your messages from anywhere -- without the security risks of downloading all your messages into an e-mail management program if you don't want to.
  • Use the filters to pre-sort your messages. For example, I have all of my subscriptions (news headlines, social networking automated messages, Google Alerts, and business e-mails) sorted into various folders (called labels) so that my inbox isn't cluttered.
  • You have gigs and gigs of storage space to keep EVERY message you send and receive. Never worry about your inbox being too full or not being able to receive large attachments.
  • Use Google's powerful search features to find all of those messages.
  • A chat platform is built right in -- chat with your friends on AIM, Gmail, and other platforms.
  • Many more features -- more are added weekly. You can add optional components to customize the platform how you want it. Your suggestions are heard by the Google staff.
  • Getting Started Guide for Gmail users.
Even if you don't use Gmail or don't want to switch, here are some general e-mail efficiency tips:

  • Have a scheduled time to deal with e-mail. This may be multiple times during the day, but it shouldn't be the first thing you do. You can easily get bogged down in answering silly, small e-mails when you have more important things to do during the day.
  • Enact a system so that you know which messages need to be followed up on -- flags (in Outlook), stars (in Gmail), or a special folder (or "label" in Gmail).
  • If your e-mail system doesn't have a good spam filter, keep your subscriptions and subscriptions in a separate e-mail address so your good e-mail address isn't cluttered with all of the ensuing spam.
  • Keep your inbox CLEAN! If you're done with an e-mail, delete it or archive it (in Gmail).

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