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5 Email Tricks to Manage Your Account

12:41 PM, May 3, 2013   |    comments
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Kim Komando, Special for USA TODAY

On a given day, an estimated 144 billion email messages are sent and received around the world. Compare that with an average of 175 million tweets per day, and it's clear most folks and companies still prefer email when it comes to exchanging messages.

As someone who receives more email than I can count, I've had to cook up special strategies for dealing with it. Experts say up to a quarter of a person's work week is spent dealing with email.

To lighten your load, here are 5 email tricks I use every day. Use these and you'll shave serious time off of your inbox management.

Send less (and better) email: Email follows one law you've probably heard before: You get what you give. If you're sending out dozens of messages, you're going to receive that many back and more. If the email you send isn't clear, you'll end up sending more messages to clarify. It all adds up.

Instead, look for other ways to communicate. If a quick text, call or IM can get your message across faster, use that instead. If you're dealing with a co-worker, taking a trip to their office might be easier and more productive.

With the email you can't avoid sending out, make it clear and concise. Anticipate questions and answer them before they're asked. Try to keep it as short as possible, as well. If a list or short sentence will do, don't stretch things out into paragraphs.

If you're frequently sending the same message to multiple people, save time with a template you can copy and paste. These can be customized as you go so they don't look as much like form letters.

Filter and Automate: Nearly every email program or service lets you set up some form of automated message filtering. This can be as simple as setting up folders to separate important mail from the clutter. Advanced systems can color code and label email for you based on sender and other rules.

Start by routing messages from important contacts to a folder labeled "Urgent" or something similar. Create a "Read later" folder for routine or subscription messages. You can create as many subfolders and folders as you need, so set up a system that works best for you.

Act on the email you receive, and then either archive or delete the messages. The quicker it is out of your inbox, the better. Remember, your inbox is a delivery system, not a storage system!

If you want even more advanced filtering options, use programs like Outlook or the free Thunderbird. These are a must for anyone with multiple email accounts. They add all sorts of management features that most webmail can't touch.

Use temporary email: At some point you've made the mistake of giving out your real email address online. Shortly afterward, a flood of email you don't care about appears in your inbox.

In most cases, you just needed to give it to a site so you can receive a confirmation email proving you are who you say you are. For those situations, it's better to use a temporary email account. Mailinator is a good site for this. Its email addresses only last for an hour or so and then all the email is erased.

Some people create a second email address. That's the one they give out to new or questionable sites. Their main email is reserved for friends, family and reputable sites. You should also keep business and personal email accounts separate.

When to use BCC: There are many ways to send email to multiple people. Usually, people simply use "To:" or "CC:" and fill in all the email addresses. For most mass mailings, however, "BCC:" is a better option.

Using it means recipients only see their own email address. That's a plus when they might not know other people on the list, or your email might be forwarded to strangers. You don't want a spammer getting their hands on a large list of your friends' names and addresses.

BCC can backfire, though. In an office setting, using BCC on an email makes you the only target for replies. If the email is about a project with a team, include other team members' addresses in a "To:" field to help you carry the weight.

Whenever you include multiple people in an email - office or personal - make sure each knows why they're included. Don't be afraid to explain that in the body of the email.

Turn off notifications: One of the biggest email annoyances is notifications. These come from Facebook, Twitter and other social sites.

You might get an email every time someone interacts with your profile. If you're an avid social networker, these notifications can take over your inbox.

Go into your settings on each site to turn off notifications.

Kim Komando hosts the nation's largest talk radio show about consumer electronics, computers and the Internet. You can email her at techcomments@usatoday.com.

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