Email Purgatory

email_MH900413668I thought I’d call it “Email Hell”…

… but, honestly, a few email issues don’t eternal damnation make. If so, then I need to rethink vice.

Anyway, Purgatory is more like what a lot of us experience with email: things kinda happen outside of our control that, while not horrible, annoy and get in the way of productivity.

The usual solution is to setup a new email name and then start the process of spam and unwanted subscriptions blasts until it gets too full, then move on. So I thought to write a touch about some easy strategies on avoiding these problems.

Primary & Throwaway email accounts

  • I keep four accounts:
    • work
    • personal
    • personal Microsoft login (used to sync my computers and I use it only for this purpose)
    • throw-away which I use for logins, etc.
  • Managing multiple accounts:
    • Easy access: the problem with multiple accounts is that you need to login to all of them separately in order to keep track of them.
    • Smartphones will allow multiple email accounts, but from a computer you should use an email system that allows for multiple email accounts in a single interface.
    • By far, the best system for managing multiple accounts in a single place is Microsoft Outlook. Mozilla Thunderbird is pretty good, and free, but much less useful.
    • the new Windows 8 mail app is excellent for multiple emails, although, again, it’s less robust than Outlook. I do like it, and I find myself using it more and more frequently.
    • Mac/ Android netbooks: I’m not familiar with them, although there’s a good reason why there is a Office for Mac version..

Protecting your primary email account

  • This is your personal and private communication system. Take good care of it! Keep it private and manage very carefully who gets to use it.
  • Do not give this to anyone or any website that you do not want to hear back from!
  • Do not use this account for logins except for those that you absolutely want to manage through your primary email account.

Throw-away email account

An easy strategy to avoid spam and unwanted email is to use a throw-away account for signing up for commercial services and logins. Uses of the throw-away account include:

  • sending emails when you don’t want the recipient to use or know your personal email.
  • avoiding bulk but legitimate emails related to user accounts (especially for bills and receipts)
  • protecting your personal email and other passwords that should be reserved only for the most secure and important accounts
  • using the throw-away account for logins and accounts protects your primary emails from spam and mailing lists
  • ALWAYS USE A DISTINCT PASSWORD FOR YOUR THROWAWAY EMAIL ACCOUNT!

Aliases

  • Aliases are email names that really send/receive from another email account.
  • Aliases are great for receiving emails into a single account that you don’t want to publish.
  • For example, in our business, we use the following aliases that all go to our main email account:
    • info@school4schools.com
    • admin@school4schools.com
    • admin@theaplusclub.com
    • and so on, with each of these being sent to a single mailbox. We can send from these aliases, as well.

Spam Management

Filters

  • most online email portals have robust filters to which you can add unwanted email, usually with a click.
  • the problem with filters is that spam artists are good at hiding and/or changing their domain or email user names in order to avoid filtering which is based upon one or the other.
  • free email portals will often mis-recognize legitimate emails as spam, so do pay attention to your spam filter box.
  • online mail portals may also have rules or keyword filters so that you can identify spam from subject lines or even content, with words such as one I have setup on my throw-away account:  “If Subject contains viagra then automatically delete e-mail message”

Rules

  • for desktop email programs, such as Outlook, you can create “Rules” to manage emails. It is useful for automatically deleting unwanted email, as per my example above, but rules are much more powerful, so please see the separate section on them below.

 Passwords

  • Most online accounts use email accounts for password recovery. You should be prepared to manage these effectively and without compromising your privacy.
  • Keep track of your passwords only in a secure place, best offline or on a secure piece of paper. I won’t tell you how I manage passcodes, but I do it in a way that I can always access them, yet keep them secure.
  • There are passcode managers that create and update random passcodes on websites and email accounts but that are managed from a single passcode on your computer. I won’t recommend any since I have never used these.

Hijacked Email Accounts

  • Spammers and hijack your email account in two ways:
  • by hacking your account and taking it over, or, more commonly
  • by using your email address for their spams. When they do this, you become the apparent “sender” of the emails, and replies and undelivreables will be sent to you. However, you did not actually send the email, so you won’t see it in your outbox. They get these emails from websites that are designed to gather them, or from buying them from those website. It’s ugly stuff and compromises so much web activity, but it is a reality.
  • If your email becomes compromised,
  • change password
  • notify your email provider. as they are very concerned about these events

Email Rules

  • Some email systems allow for “rules” that create specific actions depending on email sender, recipient, subject, date, etc.
  •  In addition to using rules to filter unwanted email, “rules” can be super useful for automating regular tasks, such as:
  • automating replies
  • moving emails to specific folders or automatically forwarding them to other email accounts

A word about “free” email accounts

  • Google, Microsoft, Apple, Earthlink, etc. all make available free emails for a reason: to make money. Just be aware of this. Google was recently outed for reviewing email content in order to align its ads and banners with user preferences. I think they had to back off from that one. Still, they look at who’s sending and receiving and use that data as part of their overall advertising programs which they sell for huge amounts of money.  Microsoft’s new Outlook.com, which is not the Outlook program, but a lite-version of it, claims to offer better privacy protection and management. I don’t use it so I don’t know. My wife uses EarthLink, and it’s full of ads, but she’s not bothered by it.
  • Just know that “free” is not free.

 Outlook

  • I strongly recommend using Outlook for email management. It can be run as a desktop or online portal, and it brings so many features to thoroughly manage and empower your total communication, scheduling, and general organizational processes.
  • Outlook includes many features, among which I use are:
    • email management with powerful:
      • folders management
      • filtering and searching
      • signatures management (those little messages at the bottom of emails that automatically load)
      • contacts management
      • archiving
      • reading and writing in various formats, including pdfs, spreadsheets, images, Word documents, etc.
    • calendar
    • tasks management
    • journaling
    • sharing
      • this is super important for organizations; you can share calendars, contacts, email accounts, tasks, or anything via Outlook. Our office manager, Megan, and I put tasks on each other’s calendars all the time, and, voila, there it is without any wasting time
    • integration with MS Office, especially Word, Excel, and OneNote.
  • These are just a few of what Outlook brings. It’s why something like 80% of major businesses use Outlook. I became a convert as I watched my wife manage her 500+ daily emails and all her complex calendar entries. Students and teachers should take advantage of this hugely powerful organizational tool.

Good luck with your email management!

It’s all about information and getting things done as effectively and efficiently as possible. I am here to help if you’d like to review your own email strategies. Let me know!

– Michael

The A+ Club from School4Schools.com LLC, based in Arlington, VA, is dedicated to helping students across the U.S.A. meet their goals and find the academic success the want and deserve. Contact us here or call now  to (703) 271-5334 to see how we can help.