I recently attended a seminar titled, The Art of Less Doing, which is about how to be more productive and spend less time doing fewer things. There were a number of automation tools proffered that could take the rest of the year to integrate into my daily or weekly agendas. So I started out slowly with a change that I knew about but needed someone standing over me to do. As a result I estimate I got an hour back each day.
I learned to reduce the number of emails in my inboxes without blocking or unsubscribing or having to read each one. I have two email addresses and my new mail was getting pretty dense. Aside from my favorites, family and friends, I hear from Facebook fans, Twitter and LinkedIn connections and groups, a dozen MeetUp groups, my alma maters, industry newsletters and solicitations, my favorite home, clothing and beauty sites and stores, my favorite entertainment and travel sites and my financial accounts. Some of these contacts are naturally more important than others but even those I don’t need to read daily, weekly, monthly, even quarterly. I want to be able to take advantage of what they have to offer when I have the time and need to do so.
Filter your incoming email
So I learned how to set up filters under the Settings tab in my Gmail and AOL accounts. I already had created files or folders on the left hand side of the page to drag or move email into after I had read at least a part of each one, maybe just the headline. So now when one of my theater companies sends me their play announcements, Saks and Bluefly their promotions and eMarketer and IAB their daily updates, they wind up in my Entertainment, Fashion and Ad Industry folders respectfully. I can then access those folders when I want to see a play, shop or just have the time to read.
The Less Doing seminar leader Ari Meisel has only one filter, titled Pending, aside from his main inbox. Clearly he’s better at less doing than I am. I’m still a novice and prefer to separate my mail by their topics. I can tell you that AOL only lets you filter up to 50 email addresses. That doesn’t mean I have 50 folders but that I can send only 50 separate email addresses to any one folder. There seems to be no limit so far with Gmail and more filter options. I couldn't make filtering work with the Apple Mail viewer but that could be just me. So here’s how I set up my filters on AOL and Gmail.
5 Simple Steps to Save Time with AOL Mail
Start by going to AOL.com and signing in to get your mail as usual:
1. In the upper right hand corner of the page under your name and photo, click on the drop down menu under Options
2. Select the Settings option
3. On the left hand menu that appears, select Filters and Alerts
4. Select Create Filter
5. Complete the box that appears: (I only fill in 4 of the queries)
a. Edit Filter – enter the name of the sender of the email you want to filter
b. From – paste their email address
c. To – paste your email address
d. Skip down to Move to folder: name the folder or select from a dropdown list of folders you already created
e. Click Save
f. Your list of filtered folders that appears will look like this:
(If you receive your AOL mail by using the AOL desktop, do the filtering from the AOL web site as described above.)
5 Simple Steps to Save Time with GmailStart by signing in to Google and going to your Gmail page as usual:
1. In the upper right hand corner of the mail page under your name and photo, click on the drop down menu next to the gear icon
2. Select the Settings option
3. On the top menu that appears, select Filters
4. Select Create (New) Filter
5. Complete the boxes that appear:
a. From – paste their sender's email address
b. To – paste your email address (complete the rest if you want to filter some but not all of the emails from that same sender)
c. Click Create filter with this search
d. The next box that appears gives you more options. Since I don't want emails from this sender to appear in my main inbox, I click Skip the Inbox and Apply the label, picking a folder from the drop down menu or create a new one. (The rest of the choices are up to you.)
e. Click Create filter and your list of filtered emails appears:
Seriously, I got at least an hour back; it's like having a 25 hour day. As the saying goes less is more: I'm getting more done in less time. I'll let you know if any of the other less doing tools worked for me. Please let me know if my instructions need any tweaking and share any of your email time savers in the comments below. Maybe we can find another hour to save!