Quick hack for organizing incoming email

You have an upcoming project or are starting a new team at your ministry and want interested people to email you. Or you speak at a conference/get interviewed on a podcast and want a way for the audience to reach you. Or you are signing up for a couple different email lists but they all pertain to the same topic. You probably want a quick and easy way to organize those incoming emails. If you use Google, there is such a way!

In the Google email system, you can add the plus sign (+) and anything you want after it to the first half of your email address, and it will still get to you. This works with both standard Gmail addresses and with Google Apps customers. So, if your church uses Google for its email, it will work for you!

Let’s take the examples from the opening.

  • You’re starting a new outreach team and it just seems easier to have people email you than to pass a clipboard or design an online sign-up sheet. In the announcement about the team, ask them to email youremail+outreach@gmail.com or youremail+outreach@yourdomain.com.
  • You speak at the Super Awesome Church Conference or are interviewed on the Super Awesome Church Podcast, and it would be cool to give the audience a way to get in touch with you. Ask them to email youremail+SACC@gmail.com or youremail+podcast@yourdomain.com.
  • You are a campus minister who wants to keep up with what is going on at your college campus, and you notice that almost all of the departments have their own email list for announcements. Or you are a church leadership junkie and want to sign up for the thousands of church leadership newsletters out there. Sign up for each list with youremail+campus@yourdomain.com or youremail+leadership@yourdomain.com.

Gmail already has a great system for filters and labels, and this trick makes it go even faster. You can set up a filter to apply a label to all emails sent to that particular version of your email address and you’re done. You don’t have to manually label each incoming email. You also won’t have to create the same rule over and over again for each new email list you subscribe to within the same topic. Just sign up with the email address variation that sends it to the correct label.

Bonus tips! This can be combined with other Gmail filers and rules to help you stay organized and on task. You can set up additional rules that not only send these emails to a particular label, but you can have them skip your inbox. Why would you want to do this? It keeps these emails from both clogging up your inbox and being a source or distraction. Instead, you can go into that label during a break or at the end of the day or when you need to compile the list of people who signed up. They will all be there waiting for you.

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