Master your e-mail
Nov 5, 2007, 11:53 GMT
Washington - E-mail is a way of life for many in this digital age.
We use e-mail to keep in touch with friends and colleagues, to find jobs, to get news and other information, to share photos, and to receive receipts and other important documents.
In short, we use it for just about everything - and we get lots of it.
So it not only makes sense to get your e-mail organised but also to make sure that you're using e-mail in the smartest way possible. Otherwise, e-mail will go from being a useful tool to an overwhelming burden that will result in important information being lost or forgotten. But a little know-how will go a long way toward making you the master of your e-mail.
--- Use several accounts
One of the best ways to gain control over your e-mail is to open and use several e-mail accounts. It might sound counterintuitive to open two, three, or four e-mail accounts in order to be able to manage adequately the e-mail you get, but it will be clear once you understand the rationale.
If you use only one e-mail account for everything, you'll end up giving out that e-mail address in all kinds of situations: for personal correspondence, business missives, while shopping online, or when requesting information from Web sites.
The result will be that, sooner or later, your main e-mail address will end up on all kinds of mailing lists, including plenty for which you had no idea you signed up. And you'll be faced with tons of what most people call spam.
With multiple e-mail accounts, on the other hand, you can deem one to be sacrosanct - given out only to close associates or friends. The others you can designate for giving out for particular purposes - online shopping, download or information requests, or sign-ups for online forums, for instance.
As to extra cost for extra e-mail addresses, there usually isn't any. Most Internet service providers (ISPs) offer many more free e- mail addresses with an account than most people use. And even if you do not have such a deal, free e-mail providers such as Google Mail or Microsoft's Hotmail will allow you to set up plenty of addresses. If you happen to have your own Internet domain, then you can create as many e-mail addresses as you wish.
--- Set up rules
Once you have separate e-mail addresses set up for different purposes, your e-mail client can make quick work of organising your incoming e-mail. The secret lies in setting up what are called e-mail 'rules' - a set of guidelines you establish which tells your e-mail program how to treat incoming mail.
Many anti-spam software programs are based on 'rules.' When an anti-spam program sees an incoming e-mail message that meets certain criteria, it automatically routes the messages to a special folder, usually called 'junk e-mail' or 'spam.' That way, you never have to slog through a pile of useless messages in your inbox.
You can do the same thing with messages that aren't exactly useless but that you normally do not need to see with any urgency or regularity. Having separate e-mail accounts set up within the same e- mail client, such as Microsoft Outlook, makes it easy to establish rules. We'll use Outlook in the following example, but you can apply the concept of rules in many other e-mail programs, as well. If your e-mail program doesn't offer rule-based sorting, you may want to switch to one that does.
Let's say, then, that you've created a special e-mail account called email@example.com that you've determined to use whenever a shopping site asks for your e-mail address. In Outlook, you'll want to create a folder called, for instance, Shopping. To do so, go to your inbox, click the top-level node of the e-mail tree on the left- hand side, open the File menu, and select New...Folder.
A Create New Folder dialog box will appear, and you can type the word Shopping in the Name field and press OK. Your new Shopping folder should appear in the list of folders in the left-hand pane.
Now it's time to create the rule. Right-click on any message in your inbox, and select Create Rule from the pop-up menu. The Create Rule dialog box opens. Select the Sent To checkbox, and from the Sent To drop-down list box, locate your firstname.lastname@example.org account and choose that.
Click OK, and you're done. From that point on, any e-mail sent to your email@example.com account will automatically be routed to your Shopping folder, where you can peruse the messages at your leisure and not have to deal with them in your Inbox. You can repeat this rule creation process for each of your e-mail accounts.
--- Check your junk e-mail folder
Most dedicated e-mail users these days are employing some kind of anti-spam software to help deal with the onslaught of unsolicited e- mail that comes their way. But while anti-spam solutions have gotten better, they're not foolproof. Sometimes messages that are routed to junk e-mail or spam folders are in fact legitimate.
So to keep control of your e-mail, you need to peruse the junk e- mail folder every week or so - more often if you're finding many legitimate e-mail messages there. Be sure to use whatever option is available to you to mark legitimate messages or senders as safe; otherwise, your anti-spam solution will continue erroneously routing messages to the junk folder.
Getting a grip on your e-mail is one of the best moves you can make to put efficiency back into your digital life. The computer, after all, is designed to make you more productive. Staying productive today means implementing - and using - a sound system for handling e-mail.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur