Home > Uncategorized > Keeping organized and getting things done. (part 2: e-mail)

Keeping organized and getting things done. (part 2: e-mail)

E-mail is something that all teachers must do, but not all teachers know how to do well. E-mailing is often handled with the least amount of effort necessary. We login, we check our mail, we read, reply, or compose, and we logout. Repeat. We often have multiple accounts and use them separately for different purposes (work, personal). Perhaps we find ourself losing track of conversations, falling out of sync, and experiencing e-mail as more of a chore than anything else.

If a little time and energy is spent on organizing our e-mail, we can make e-mail a simple and enjoyable activity and can find ourselves better connected to our colleagues and friends, on top of our work, all while spending less time on e-mail. For the purpose of this post, I am going to use Google Mail (GMail) and walk you through a few suggestions. This plan involves using one GMail account as your messaging center, so you’ll need to sign up for GMail if you don’t have it.

Login once and for all.

Most e-mail accounts allow you to forward your incoming mail to another address. By doing this, you can collect your mail in one place rather than 2 or more. Look for forwarding options within your work e-mail settings, or within whatever personal addresses you may have. Set these inboxes to forward all incoming mail to your GMail account.

Be yourself, no matter who you are talking to.

There’s no need to login to your work e-mail to be your work self. Now that all your e-mail is coming to once place, you will want to be able to send and reply from your various addresses. Go to settings > accounts > send mail as. Setup whatever accounts you plan to compose and reply from and check the box “Reply from the same address the message was sent to” so that you don’t accidentally reply from the wrong address.

Let the mail man do the sorting.

With all your mail being delivered in one place, you may feel bombarded. Perhaps it’s the weekend and you don’t want to see an e-mail from a colleague. Setup filters to organize your mail and keep things on your terms. Go to settings > filters. To filter your work mail into one folder, create a new filter and under the “To:” address, enter your work e-mail address. Click next, check “Skip the Inbox (Archive it)” and “Apply the label:” and give it a label such as “Work” and click create. Setup filters and labels until all of your mail is sorted to your liking. Think of this as having sorting bins into which the mail man sorts your mail for you. What a nice mail man!

Prioritize your sorting bins.

If you sort your mail, you probably open certain things before others. Why not make it easy to do the same with e-mail. GMail lets you access various areas of your e-mail (inbox, sent, drafts, spam, labels) from the left pane. Let’s setup this area to our liking. Click settings > labels. Under “system labels,” hide whatever labels are not of great use. Now, do the same with your personal labels. When you’re done, that left pane will only show you what really matters. If you want to get fancy, you can give each sorting bin (label) a color so that it’s easier to recognize – simply click the box to the right of the label within the left pane and choose your color.

Manage follow-up tasks.

When you receive a bill in the mail, you probably put it somewhere to remind yourself that this needs to be handled! Why not do the same with e-mail? Setup a few labels to help you organize follow up tasks. Go to settings > labels. Try creating these three labels: “1) action” “2) some day” “3) waiting on” The numbers 1, 2, and 3 will keep these lables in order within the left pane. Now, when you view an e-mail, you can press V, then 1 or 2 or 3, to flag it. Make sure to add these labels to your left pane so that you can view all “action” or other items by clicking the label.

Star the super important stuff.

Sometimes, sorting bins or not, something important needs to be left right out in the open so that it gets our full attention. We can use GMail’s “stars” and “priority inbox” to accomplish this. Go to settings > priority inbox. Under “Priority Inbox sections:” order the sections as follows: 1. Important and unread. 2. Starred. 3. Everything else. 4. Empty. Now, when you receive an e-mail that is super important, press S to star it (or click the star) and it’ll be kept out in the open for your eyes to always see.

A lot of work? Not really. The result pays off.

The mail man gathers mail addressed to your work, your PO box, and your home and delivers it all to one place. He sorts all of your mail into your bins. You read what you want and mark things for follow up. You respond as a professional, a friend, a mom or dad, all in one place. As time goes on, you save time, energy, and headaches and can spend more time doing what you really want to be doing and less time being the mail man, or woman.

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  1. Stephen Ransom
    April 14, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    Here’s another nice security tip: You can check and see when/where (IP) your gmail account has been accessed, and, if you forget to log out of your gmail account in a public or unsecured space, you can log out remotely. I just learned this tip a few weeks ago and think it would be very hand for students who log in to their accounts on campus labs… and often forget to log out.

    • Stephen Ransom
      April 18, 2011 at 4:57 pm

      As a follow-up, my Gmail account was hacked by someone in Italy last week. I had to reset the password. This account activity link helped me see who did it and where they were from. Sadly, they did sent out some spam to some folks in my address book before I could get this changed, but thanks to Google’s security notification, I was able to get things re-secured before too much damage was done.

  2. Erica Lubert
    April 18, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    You are convincing me to use my gmail account more! I didn’t know that it had all the features you mention, such as sorting, flagging as priority, and having mail from other addresses forwarded. Organizing email is necessary, to make sure not to forget to communicate with someone. In addition, saving all contacts in your email, including phone numbers is useful, especially if you leave the country. If there is ever a situation that you lose your phone, you could go online and retrieve important contacts.

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