Recently, I wanted to increase the productivity of the management of all my emails. I had been using Outlook for maybe 8 years or so, and was relatively happy. However, I wondered if there was a smoother way to deal with my emails. You see, I get 100-200 emails per day. I need a proper method in place to manage this, otherwise, I lose time which to me is of a great value.
I had switched to Google Calendar, and I was wondering if a similar switch from Outlook to Gmail would actually work. Gmail would have to have all that Outlook offers and then some for me to transfer over. Here is what I found out:
Multiple accounts & label system
I was pleasantly surprised to know that I could fully manage up to 5 accounts + the actual Gmail account from within the same account. This was very good because I happen to have 3 or 4 different email addresses. What’s different about Gmail is that it does not have folders. Within Outlook, I would save and/or arrange my emails in different folders. With Gmail, you put a label on it and then you can retrieve it by searching within that label’s category. It gives you the same result in my opinion. Labels or folders, I find my emails just the same. Labels might be a little cleaner as far as what the screen looks like since it takes less space than to have tons of folders.
Huge archive storage
It is very important for me to save emails and be able to retrieve them easily. With Outlook, the database backup was just enormous in size for what is basically text. Plus, searching through old emails in Outlook takes a embarrassing amount of time. With Gmail, you get about 7 Gigabyte of storage space. I have barely used 1% of it so far (1 month of usage). Searching within Gmail is so easy and so fast. I can easily archive all my conversations, and find what I need to find within a matter of seconds. This saves me a lot of time, because I would get very frustrated when searching for an email for a client and having Outlook take 5 min. or freeze on me.
Great spam filter
The spam filter in Gmail is really good. I was actually very surprised as to how much more accurate it is compared to the filters in Outlook or the ones installed on the web server for POP or IMAP accounts. I usually had about 30-50 spams that would still find their way into my inbox every day with Outlook. Now, after 1 month, I remember 1 or 2 spam that made it into my inbox. The difference in efficiency is clearly obvious.
One of the best features in Gmail is the fact that you can apply a “star” (or question mark, exclamation point, etc.) to a particular email, so that you can be reminded to follow up on it later. When looking at a screen of 100 emails, it’s hard to remember which ones you need to reply to or whatnot if there is nothing to make them stand out. I have found my ability to properly deal with emails where my attention was required multiple times has improved because of this star system. Sometimes I cannot reply right away, but I put a little exclamation mark next to it to remind me that I need to reply back. I put a little star next to an email where I am expecting a response back. This feature can really boost your productivity.
Just like other emails, you have all the features you need. You can add a signature to your outgoing emails. There is a vacation auto-responder as well. Before, I had to set up 4 different auto-responders for each email account. Within Gmail, just one takes care of everything. What’s also great is that you can have your Gmail in sync with your Google Talk account. I use this chat service often, and it saves my chat history within my Gmail account. So if I discuss something with a client, I can easily find the information back if necessary, and I can do that extremely quickly. Plus, you get notifications on the chat when you have new emails. You can also add your own filters to incoming emails. These are very flexible and highly customizable. There is also an option to create keyboard shortcuts for common tasks that you might do within your account. These features are nothing new, but they make Gmail truly a viable alternative to Outlook.
Best of all, I can access my Gmail account from any computer. Therefore, I can deal with my emails anywhere in the world I may be. With Outlook, I was restricted to one computer. And even using IMAP instead of POP, I would still have to login to each specific email account individually on the server itself. With Gmail, it’s all under one roof, and that’s what I found so powerful. This was one of the main reasons why I switched over. I wanted my work to be more remote and be accessible anywhere. Sometimes I am on the road, traveling, or on a laptop. Sometimes I just need to check something quickly while I am at a friend’s place. In any of these cases, I have full access to my email accounts just like I would if I was at the office. Add in all the other features I mentioned above, and the decision to switch over was very easy to make! To be perfectly honest, it’s been so smooth using Gmail, that I haven’t missed Outlook whatsoever 😉