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Email Tricks That Can Help You Preserve Your Mental Balance As A Busy Parent

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Career & Money

Email Tricks That Can Help You Preserve Your Mental Balance As A Busy Parent

If there is one technological tool that has caused me an excessive amount of tension in my mature life, it’s email. Sending them, replying to them, neglecting to send them—it feels endless. It’s also unavoidable. My occupations have consistently necessitated spending a considerable amount of time in the inbox, and that isn’t going to change anytime soon. And now, being a parent adds the additional strain of managing communications from pediatricians, daycare, and the like.

As a self-employed writer, I utilize the same email account for both personal and business communications. To some, this may seem like a disorderly choice, but it suits my needs quite well. However, it does require me to maintain my inbox *extremely* organized to prevent missing anything important. Over time, I have devised a few tactics—also known as email tricks—to assist me in maintaining my sanity.

That being said, my primary advice to anyone would be to thoroughly explore all of the capabilities that Gmail offers and experiment with what suits you best. Similar to organizing a household, there isn’t a single “correct way” to set it up, and everyone possesses unique preferences. However, just from conversing with friends, I believe many of us do not fully utilize all the features available to us.

Below, discover nine email tricks that significantly facilitate my work and personal life.

1. Postpone Messages

I’m not sure about you, but one of my greatest fears is accidentally forgetting about an important email because I viewed it and then promptly overlooked it. Given the frequency with which I check emails on my phone while supervising a toddler, this scenario is highly plausible. I discover it helpful to postpone messages that I can’t address at the moment. This way, I can temporarily set them aside (out of sight, out of mind!), knowing they’ll resurface later as if they were just sent at that time.

Typically, I choose one of the default settings (like tomorrow at 8 a.m.), but I can also specify a particular date and time. I also postpone many of the “fun” emails I subscribe to because I prefer not to be distracted by them during work hours, yet I wish to revisit them when I have spare time.

2. Flag Messages as “Unread”

On other occasions, I utilize the “unread” feature as a method to avoid forgetting about something. So, if I open an email but do not intend to respond to it right away, I tap the small envelope icon at the top to mark it as “unread.” It’s a simple step, yet it helps alleviate that lingering concern that it might otherwise get lost in the shuffle.

3. Plan Email Dispatch

While email etiquette has become more relaxed, I still believe in respecting the boundaries of evenings and weekends. Thus, even though I occasionally work at night or on a Saturday, I rarely hit “send” during those times. Instead, I schedule it to transmit during business hours.

4. Utilize Templates When Suitable

During my tenure in sales, I had to dispatch many similar email messages. Eventually, I discovered the convenience of templates. There are numerous applications and tools available for individuals who frequently send emails for business purposes that are worth exploring if you operate in fields like sales or public relations. However, you can also save basic templates in Gmail. This approach is also useful if you only want a portion of the email, such as the initial few sentences, to be templated.

For example, when I pitch a potential client about content creation, the introduction always consists of a brief personal introduction and an overview of my expertise. Therefore, while I may customize the remainder of the message, I can save time and effort by using a template for the introductory segment.

The next time you compose content you wish to preserve as a template, click on the three dots stacked on top of one another at the bottom of the message, then select “Templates.” Note: If this option is not visible, you may need to access your settings, locate the “Advanced” section, and opt to “Enable templates.”

5. Employ Tags and Directories

While I do not categorize diligently like some individuals, it proves beneficial for certain purposes. For instance, as a reporter, I receive numerous messages from public relations representatives. Few of them are immediately pertinent to me, but I do not want to discard them entirely in case I wish to revisit them later (for instance, if I am researching child toys and desire to reference something a person sent me four months ago). Therefore, I automatically tag all such messages as “PR inquiries,” which stores them in their dedicated folder. I also maintain a few tags just for enjoyment, like “Joyful Box,” where I save particularly heartwarming messages or positive feedback.

6. Personalize Your Configuration

I strongly advise delving into the Settings and experimenting with the diverse choices. Previously, I had configured my inbox as “Default,” with “Promotions” and “Social” designated as categories. Gmail adeptly sorts these, so I do not have to view Facebook notifications or promotional messages from stores unless I wish to. Although I no longer employ that setup, it markedly improved upon the time when those separate tabs were absent.

Subsequently, I made a more radical modification by segregating my “unread” and “read” messages. This method might not suit everyone, but it was transformative for me. Like, I cannot envision functioning without my inbox being organized this way any longer. To implement this, I accessed “settings” (the small gear icon in the top-right corner), then navigated to the “Inbox” tab. Beneath “Inbox type,” I selected “Unread first.”

Presently, when I review my inbox, all unread messages are consolidated at the top, with everything else below. I can collapse or expand either section by clicking on it. Consequently, if I only wish to peruse the messages that have not been opened yet, I have the choice of hiding “Everything else” and focusing on a perfectly uncluttered, non-intimidating inbox.

In my opinion, there is a significant mental advantage to not gazing at a multitude of messages. I am aware that there are only a few “unopened” messages I must address, and I’m not anxious about them being buried in my inbox and neglected.

If you’re considering “I have 1,369 unread emails, this strategy won’t work,” I can share that I was in the same situation before I began implementing this method. However, there is a remarkably straightforward solution to that. For me, the majority of my unread messages were spam or promotional emails from stores, so I knew I wouldn’t read them. Yet, I didn’t want to mass erase my entire backlog, just in case there was something important or sentimental that I might want to reference in the future

What I opted for instead was to label all of those unread messages as “read.” On the left sidebar, choose “All Mail.” Then, mark the small box at the top to select all the messages on that page. You’ll notice it says, “All 50 conversations on this page are selected,” and right beside that, “Select all [some enormous number] conversations in All Mail” in blue. Click that and then locate the small envelope icon at the top to “Mark as Read.” That’s all

If your inbox is causing you significant frustration, you could also establish an entirely new email account to begin anew. I undertook this approximately a decade ago when I concluded that I required an email devoid of my high school graduation year in it (LOL). What aided me was configuring the old account to automatically forward to the new one. This way, I didn’t have to be concerned about checking the old account or overlooking any messages sent there. Even today, some old friends and acquaintances still send emails to the former account, but that’s acceptable because their message promptly appears in the one I am presently using.

7. Simplify Meeting Scheduling

By clicking the three dots at the email’s bottom, you can choose “Schedule a meeting,” and your GCal will show up on the side. You can easily view your availability, pick multiple time slots for your recipient to select from, and embed them directly into the email content.

8. Opt Out Aggressively

While this isn’t exactly a “Gmail hack,” it is worth mentioning that a crucial stress-relieving tactic for me is to make a nearly daily habit of unsubscribing from mailing lists. I’ve observed that every time I make a purchase, that store starts bombarding me with promotional emails. Not only is it distracting, but it lures me into spending on things I don’t actually need. Though I always try to take the extra moment to untick the box indicating I don’t want promotional emails before hitting “purchase,” they seem to sneak in anyway. Despite being an ongoing process, I regard it as digital decluttering.

9. Align with Your Partner

While more of a parenting tip than an email one, my spouse and I heavily rely on GCal to remain coordinated. Whenever one of us plans something that affects the other (which typically involves events outside working hours), we create an event in GCal for it. Be it relatives visiting, a night out with pals, a medical appointment, or any other engagement, there won’t be any arguments later about one person feeling blindsided when they realize they’re solely in charge of parenting duties. (Just kidding, there might still be disagreements, but at least no one can say they weren’t forewarned!)

Some parents even establish a shared family email for all kid-related communications. I haven’t tested this Gmail trick, but it might suit certain families.

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