Get Shift Done: Tips and Tricks
Plenty of managers are smart enough to get help with their daily email traffic. But many people don’t realize that they can give assistants access to only part of the load. Private correspondence stays private, while delegated items are routed to an assistant immediately. Here’s how this simple Gmail automation works.
You’re busy! To manage your time, you’ve identified slices of your work that someone else can do, and you found someone to do them. You naturally assume that the way to delegate this work is to share your e-mail password with the assistant: not so good.
Filter, don’t share. Here I show you how to configure an appropriate Gmail filter. The tip below applies equally whether you rely on fee-free Gmail or G Suite. (Apple Mail, Outlook, and other services offer similar functionality, but about one in six messages are read in Gmail.) Moreover, the configuration below works without regard to the e-mail system used by your assistant.
Decide what you want your assistant to receive, first. Should he see all your traffic? Is this a special-purpose assistant who only helps with, say, business events? Does the assistant need to handle everything except personal items? Both inclusive and exclusive filters are possible.
For the sake of specificity, this tip tackles the case where you choose to pass along only messages with the word “project” in the subject line.
Start from Gmail’s “Gear” menu; select “Settings.”
Select “Forwarding and POP/IMAP” (it’s at the top of the screen). Choose “Add a forwarding address.” Enter your assistant’s e-mail address, and confirm that, yes, you truly want to forward e-mail to this person.
Next is the most confusing part of this whole process, and the one that differs most between Gmail and a few of its rival e-mail services: The assistant must explicitly give permission to receive forwarded e-mail. That is: The assistant needs to open his e-mail, and click on the link there as instructed.
Once that’s done — once your assistant sees “email@example.com may now forward mail to assistant@some_service.com” — you have everything you need to complete the filter.
At this point, return to the Gmail Settings control panel. Choose “Filters and Blocked Addresses” (which also is along the top of the screen). Select “Create a new filter.” In the Subject entry, type
project. Leave everything else blank.
Click on “Create filter with this search,” which brings you to the filter actions screen.
Select “Forward it to …”, and pick your assistant’s e-mail address. (You can also consider selecting the “Also apply filter to …” checkbox, if it makes sense to forward past messages that have “project” in the subject line.)
Depending on your exact sequence of points and clicks, Gmail may grey-out “Forward it to….” Make sure your assistant has approved forwarding, and restart your sequence back at the “Settings” selection.
Finally, click on the “Create filter” button. Congratulations! From now on, your assistant receives all your “project” e-mail a fraction of a second after you do. You can turn your attention to more strategic and rewarding matters.
Once you have a little experience with this first simple filter, consider variations on the theme. As this first example is configured, your assistant receives e-mail about projects (or, rather, with “project” in the subject line), and presumably will respond to them. Those replies show up with the assistant’s name in the From field. Do you want your assistant to receive part of your traffic, but answer as though he is you, that is, with a return address of firstname.lastname@example.org? That’s a subject for another day.
Also consider forwarding traffic to multiple helpers or teammates. With just a little more effort, you can automatically send insurance-related messages to one assistant, keep your original assistant busy with projects, copy your boss with inbound weekly summaries about sales metrics, and distribute everything having to do with “Nashville construction” to all 13 members of your working group, whether inside your organization or out.
Email filtering is extremely powerful. This is just the start of what you can accomplish.
Get stories like this one delivered to your in-box weekly: Subscribe to the GSD newsletter.
GSD: Tips and Tricks is brought to you by Xero, the cloud accounting software solution for your small business. With Xero, you can log in anytime, anywhere to get a real-time view of your cash flow and manage your books. Start your free 30-day trial today.