Productivity Hack – How to Manage Email Like a Pro

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In this guide, I want to share my number one productivity hack, that will allow you take back control of your online business and free up that highly valuable time we seem to have so little of these days.

What You Will Learn

  • The FREE tools I use to manage ALL of my email accounts
  • An easy to follow guide to setting up your devices (iPhone and Email Clients)
  • A key tool I use to simplify everything I do online

With the number of websites we create, it's easy to lose track of your tasks and objectives and become overwhelmed.

A while ago I fell into a habit of creating a new email address for every new niche site I built. I wanted to keep everything separate for tracking purposes, however, these email accounts have amassed over the years.

Here's a selection of the accounts I have;

  • A personal vanity email
  • A Hotmail account
  • A Yahoo account
  • Admin and Support email addresses for my limited company
  • LOTS AND LOTS of niche site email addresses

Managing this many email accounts started to drive me nuts and demand a great deal of my time.

As the old saying goes, “time is money”, well I decided to tackle this problem head-on and make some drastic, yet easy to implement changes to the way I manage email and tasks for my online business.

My Previous Set Up

Shoot back a few months and I was using outlook with up to 50 email addresses added, all directed into a single inbox.

Doesn't sound too bad you say, well what if I told you that these accounts, CANNOT SYNC with the server.

This meant that any changes I made, emails read, sent and deleted, were unable to sync between multiple devices such as outlook and my iPhone. This became a nightmare to keep track of what I had and hadn't responded too.

My Current Set Up

Fast forward to the present, and after making the changes I am about to explain, I can now manage a single ‘master email” using any email client I choose. This single email account receives ALL of my messages from EVERY SINGLE  email account I own.

What's more, I can reply to any message, from the original email address the message was sent too, which means I don't even have to reveal my ‘master email” to the outside world!

With my iPhone set up in the correct manner, the messages I view, edit and delete, are now synced to my ‘master email”, meaning everything I do is replicated on all of my devices.

So what is this master solution I talk of?

The Solution = Gmail

So you probably already have a Gmail account, you may even use it for your day-to-day business (however I believe it's more professional to use yourname@yourbusiness.com).

Don't worry, whatever Gmail address you choose, you never have to share it with anyone.

We will set things up so that when we reply to emails, we do so using the email address the message was originally sent to.

The beauty of using Gmail as a master account is 3 fold;

  1. It's free
  2. It offers an IMAP account
  3. You can keep your master Gmail address completely top secret.

The Differences

The Gmail Blog provides the following explanation on the differences between POP and IMAP.

There are two ways your devices and clients can communicate with Gmail:

1. A one-way communication path (POP). Your device asks us for data and pulls it from our servers — but that's it. Things you do on your device have no effect on the server. If you read a message on your phone, then log in to Gmail, you will see that same message marked as unread. It may start to feel like Groundhog Day.

2. A two-way communication path (IMAP). Unlike with POP, your devices talk back to our servers and sync your changes automatically with IMAP. When you sign in to your Gmail account in a web browser, actions you've taken on your email client or mobile device (like putting a message in a ‘work' folder) will also appear in Gmail (your message will already have a ‘work' label on it). This all happens automatically once you set up IMAP, so you don't have to read or sort all your mail twice. This is really helpful when accessing Gmail from multiple devices.

The table below shows us just how powerful IMAP is compared to POP.

How to Set up Gmail

Setting up Gmail is probably the easiest part of the process. The Google help files, whilst text heavy, do a great job of explaining what you need to do. However, I decided to write my own, easy to follow steps below.

Step 1 – Creating your master Email account

We need to create a free Gmail account using the Google Profile you use on a frequent basis. (I have multiple Google Profiles but that's another story).

I chose my BitsFromBytes profile as that's the one I log into and check on a regular basis.

    1. Log into your Google Account
  1. Go to the ‘Accounts‘ page
  2. Click on Products
  3. Click on Gmail
  4. Chances are you already have a Gmail account set up with your Google Profile (just use the current one you have already, if not you can create one here)

Step 2 – Enable IMAP in your Gmail settings

Gmail Enable IMAP

  1. Whilst in Gmail.
  2. Click the gear icon in the top right corner
  3. Click on Settings.
  4. Click on Forwarding and POP/IMAP.
  5. Scroll to the 3rd section down ‘IMAP Access
  6. Select the Enable IMAP option
  7. Click on Save Changes.

Step 3 – Enable reply from the same address

This is where the magic happens. The next step allows us to reply to all of our emails from Gmail as if we were replying directly from the original email address.

  1. Whilst in Gmail.
  2. Click the gear icon in the top right corner
  3. Click on Settings.
  4. Click Reply from the same address to which the message was sent (see below) at the bottom of the Send Mail As section

Gmail Reply from Same Address

Step 4 – Adding Email accounts to Gmail

We now need to add all of the Email accounts we want to forward to Gmail.

  1. Whilst in Gmail.
  2. Click the gear icon in the top right corner
  3. Click on Settings.
  4. Click on Accounts.
  5. Scroll to the 2nd section down ‘Send mail as‘ (you will see it states “Use Gmail to send from your other email addresses
  6. Click the link Add another email address you own
  7. This will give you a pop-up box where you enter your Name and Email Address you want to forward to Gmail

Send Mail As Pop Up

  1. Select the ‘Treat as Alias‘ checkbox
  2. Click Next Step

On the next screen you will see the following;

Gmail Send Via SMTP

  1. Choose the second option ‘Send through YOUREMAILHERE.com SMTP servers‘ and enter the remaining details for your email account.

This is where your settings may differ from mine, depending on your email provider. I am with Bluehost for this particular email. Here are my settings;

SMTP Server – mail.bitsfrombytes.com
Username – lewis [at] bitsfrombytes.com
Password – myemailpassword
Port – 465
Secured connection using – SSL

You may need to ask your email provider for their SMTP Server settings.

  1. The next step is to click ‘Add Account
  2. Next, we are asked to verify our email address by entering a confirmation number (this is sent to the email address you are trying to add)
  3. Add the confirmation number and click verify

Gmail Add Email Confirmation

You will now see your email address added to the ‘Send Mail As‘ section in Gmail.

Gmail Email Address Added

How to set up Forwarders

A forwarder simply allows you to forward email to a different email address or another person.

In this case, we want all of our email accounts to have a forwarder, which will auto push our incoming emails out, to our new master Gmail account.

Each email provider is different, again you may have to consult your provider on how to add a forwarder for your email addresses. Below you will find links to the settings for the major email providers;

Bluehost
GoDaddy
NameCheap
Name.com
Gmail
Hotmail

You can find your own provider by searching for “MyProvider Email forwarders” in Google.

How to Set Up iPhone

Gmail Sync for iPhone
Setting up the iPhone is also very simple.

I love having just one email account on my iPhone. Anything I do in that account is replicated on the server.

When I use my email client (Gmail or Outlook) everything is EXACTLY the same as my iPhone, including labels and tags.

What's more, as I mentioned earlier, when you reply to an email from your master account, Gmail will use the original email address in the FROM message box 🙂

Step 1 – Create you master Gmail account

  1. Open up Settings app
  2. Click on Mail, Contacts, Calendars
  3. Click on Add Account…
  4. Click on Gmail
  5. Add your account information, including the full Gmail address (e.g ‘myemail@gmail.com‘)
  6. Click Next
  7. Click Save

That's it!

You can now check each email address is working, by sending a test email to each address you have asked to forward to Gmail.

Check your Gmail account (on either your iPhone or email client) and watch the test emails come through.

How to Manage Emails and Tasks

One of the biggest dependencies of this productivity hack is how you manage your emails. If you have no system then things will start to get messy very quickly.

If you have multiple niche sites as I do, then you know firsthand just how many emails you can get.

Spam

Gmail does a great job of filtering spam. You may still get some, however by using Gmail, not only do you get a free email account that allows IMAP (many don't or you at least have to pay for the privilege), but you also have a spam filter and organization tool too.

Labels

Gmail doesn't use folders.

Instead, labels are used to distinguish groups of emails. Here's what Google has to say about labels;

Labels help you organize your messages into categories — work, family, to do, read later, jokes, recipes, any category you want. Labels do all the work that folders do, but with an added bonus: you can add more than one to a message.

Only you can see your labels, so whether you mark a message with “Best friend” or “Read later,” the sender will never know.

They also explain why labels are actually better than folders (I very much agree and I also use the label functionality in Evernote as part of my processes)

The Secret Weapon

I was introduced to ‘The Secret Weapon' by Matthew Woodward.

I won't waste your time explaining it, just go check it out. It's awesome and has greatly improved my productivity – The Secret Weapon

For quick reference, ‘the secret weapon' involves having a single IMAP email account (as we have done above) and utilizing Evernote to manage and segment tasks.

So there you have it, hopefully, I have covered everything you will need to set up a master email account that will sync with all devices. If you have any questions or want to share your success/alternatives to this method, hit me up in the comments.

p.s – I have just counted and I say “Gmail” in this post 39 times….impressive!

Image courtesy of Michal Marcol