After our latest article on security practices, we were asked for some more tips, specific to email management. We understand just how many emails the average doctor or anaesthetist will receive in a week. And we understand how impossible it can be to manage such an influx of information whilst also trying to manage a patient list.
We’ve put our heads together and come up with our best advice for email account mastery. If you can spare just a few minutes to read this article, you could well save yourself hours of time in the future.
Our doctors often ask us which email provider they should use. Personally, we love Gmail. It’s celebrated as the most user-friendly cost-free service out there. It’s such a popular system that it’s always being updated.
Arguably, and importantly, it also has the best security. Gmail provides two-step verification which means that whenever you log into your email account on a new device, you’ll receive a special code on your mobile phone. By entering this mobile code, you’ll prove to the system that you are who you say you are, and not an imposter. This is particularly important for doctors and anaesthetists as their email accounts contain confidential patient information which they wouldn’t want hackers to access.
…Gmail offers a range of handy functions that make it easy to quickly find information.
Its excellent search function will allow you to sift through your mountain of emails and will quickly show you the email you’re hunting for.
The advanced spam filter will ensure you only see the emails you want to see, minus all the junk mail.
Gmail is perfect for any busy doctor or anaesthetist as it offers a large amount of free storage, currently set at 15GB. We know all-too-well how quickly that mailbox would fill up, otherwise!
To store emails that are relevant to one another, Gmail groups messages in chains. These chains make it very easy to find previous messages within a conversation. Of course, a patient or surgeon can be communicating with their anaesthetist for a number of months, so the ability to delve back into the archives is very useful indeed.
Using a professional email address
Gmail also allows you to send emails from another domain or email address. For example, if you have a professional anaesthetist email address with us, you can send email from this @anaestheticgroup.com.au or @dryourname.com.au address with ease. Click here for instructions on setting up your free Anaesthetic Group email address.
On top of this functionality, Gmail also includes some handy extras that will assist you in tidying up your email management.
You can snooze and configure your email notifications, report spam and unsubscribe from any mailing lists you no longer want to be part of. It can also be integrated with lots of different apps and tools and has an excellent iPhone interface.
Plus .. did we mention it’s FREE!
For anyone seeking a higher level of security, Gmail also offers a paid version called ‘G Suite’ which is compliant with the American Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), ensuring top levels of data privacy and security provisions for safeguarding medical information.
Getting set up
So, you’ve chosen Gmail and you know that you can link it to your professional anaesthetist email account. Gmail is very straightforward and will guide you through the set-up process. Beyond the basics, we’ve listed some extra steps that we think will help you to establish the most efficient Gmail account possible.
Link your accounts
To discover how to send emails from your Anaesthetic Group account, click here.
Become a signature pro
You can set up a different email signature for each email account. You can even consider adding links to your FAQs and patient articles or billing service details. Click here for instructions on how to set up your signature.
Dr Your Name
M 0411 111 111
F 11 1111 1111
E [email protected]
W anaestheticgroup.com.au/yourshortlink (or drmyname.com.au)
Consider using keyboard shortcuts
By using keyboard shortcuts, you can save yourself a significant amount of time when creating emails. For information on how to use these to your advantage, click here.
Organise your life with unlimited email addresses
Simply add a plus symbol (‘+’) after your email account name, to create a sub-account. For example, if your email account is [email protected], you could also use [email protected] Both email addresses would send emails to your main inbox, and you could use the new email address for online purchases, for example. By using different addresses for different purposes, you can then use Gmail’s filters to direct messages into folders, according to the email address that received them:
Locking down your email
All this may feel awfully time consuming but trust us when we say that a stitch in time really does save nine!
You’re almost there. Your Gmail account is good to go and now it’s time to ensure that your email security is as tight as it possibly can be. Here are our top tips for locking down your email account:
1. Use a strong password
We recommend a mix of upper-case and lower-case letters, as well as some characters like ‘!’, ‘@’ and ‘#’.
Avoid using the same password for other sites and services. If this is too much to manage, you could choose a default password and, each time, add a unique code at the beginning, specific to the account. e.g “[email protected](” would become “[email protected](” for Facebook and “[email protected](” for Instagram
2. Use the two-step verification
If you haven’t activated two-step verification after reading our security article, please do it now. As mentioned above, when you log into your email from a new device, you’ll not only need your username and password, but you’ll also need to prove that you are who you say you are by entering a code that is sent to your mobile phone. Whilst this might sound like extra effort, it’s very important as it stops other people from getting hold of your username and password and logging straight into your account.
3. Avoid giving other apps permission to access your email account
If you’ve already granted permission, you can still rescind this. Check which apps you’ve already given access to by visiting https://myaccount.google.com/permissions
4. Use ‘Undo Send’
Be sure to take advantage of the ‘Undo Send’ function… it will change your life! From now on, you have 30 seconds to recall an email if, for example, you happen to send it to the wrong person. And who hasn’t done that a couple of times before?
To activate this option in the new 2018 Gmail (like below), go to settings, then to ‘General’ then change the ‘Undo Send’ time.
Or in the old Gmail: go to settings, then to ‘Labs’, then click ‘Enable’ under ‘Undo Send’.
Be efficient – clear that inbox!
Not only is a cluttered email inbox frustrating, it will also distract you from other tasks and create inefficiencies in your working day. When your inbox is busy, it’s hard to differentiate between emails which are simply unopened, those which are old and those which are unimportant. Here are some of the strategies we use to manage our email and keep our inbox volume low:
1. Check your emails at the same time each day
Every anaesthetist is different so, whether you do this just once a day or three times a day, stick to a schedule that works for you.
2. Triage your emails
Glance at your inbox and work out which messages you want to read, delete, answer or save for later. We love using Gmail’s new tabs, labelled ‘primary’, ‘social’, ‘promotions’, ‘updates’ and ‘forums’. By using these tabs, you can drag your emails into categories, keeping your primary inbox nice and clean. To set it up go to ‘Settings’, then ‘Labels’ then adjust them under ‘Categories’.
3. Always delete or archive emails first
Bulk archive (or delete) any emails you don’t want or don’t need to read now. Simply tick them all and hit ‘archive’. If there’s zero chance you’ll ever need to see an email again, even for reference purposes, delete it.
4. Group email threads
Gmail can group emails into conversations, so new emails appear at the bottom. Read the latest instalment first and save yourself some time.
5. Organise your emails using filters, rules and tags:
a. To create a filter;
Click on the grey arrow in the search field. A pull-down screen will appear, where you can enter your filter criteria. Once you’ve entered your terms, click ‘create filter with this search’ and select the action you’d like Google to take for these emails. Use filters together with labels to become a Gmail power user! For example, you can attach a ‘Pre-op Forms’ label to any email that contains the words “Please find below a patient’s pre-op health questionnaire from your profile page on Anaesthetic Group”. By doing so, you will be able to quickly view any new pre-op forms without needing to dig them out first.
b. Sort Invoices;
Stick an ‘Accounts’ label on any email that has the word ‘invoice’ in its subject, and automatically archive it.
c. Forward on;
Set your account to forward and/or archive any emails you don’t want in your inbox. For example, you could automatically send any non-urgent newsletters or article feeds to your secondary email account, or send specific emails to colleagues, delegating their associated tasks.
d. Group emails be gone;
Filter out any group emails that you really don’t need to know about.
6. Create email templates
If you find that you often send very similar messages, email templates are for you. For example, you could create a specific template for each patient. To set this up visit ‘Settings’, then ‘Advanced’ then enable ‘Canned Responses’. Compose a new email with your planned template then bottom right 3 dots and click save. To use a template again click the 3 dots and insert your canned response.
7. Consider an ‘inbox pause’
The Boomerang app offers a great feature which only pushes emails into your inbox at set times. This is perfect for when you’re on holiday or during a weekend of downtime.
8. Use the ‘snooze’ function
Another awesome feature of the Boomerang app is one whereby you can bounce or ‘boomerang’ emails back into your inbox at a set time. If you receive an email about a list in two weeks, rather than storing it in your inbox, the app will allow you to snooze the email for e.g. 13 days, bouncing it back into your inbox the day before the operation. If a patient completes their anaesthetist’s pre-op form months in advance, the app can boomerang their forms back to the doctor’s inbox when the surgery is nearing.
9. Send later
Use an email scheduler to control when your emails are sent out, preventing you from playing email ping pong all day. Gmail has a new Snooze function or there is also a Boomerang function.
10. Use the two-minute rule
If an email will take less than two minutes to read and reply to, take care of it immediately.
11. Master the art of the short reply
Sometimes an email response simply needs to say ‘No’ or ‘Thanks’. If, like some, you feel that short replies can be seen as rude, update your email signature to ‘Sent from my phone’ to show that you’re out and about, and busy.
12. Install ‘send and archive’
This way, your emails are immediately archived when you reply to them.
13. Delete emails
It seems so obvious, but emails soon clog up your storage, especially if they have big attachments that you don’t need.
14. Turn off unwanted notifications
If you find that you’re constantly distracted by email notifications, turn them off.
15. Use columns and folders
Gmail provides the ability to move emails into side folders. You can automate this via a filter so they are easy to find later. Gmail also allows you to use different top email tabs, labelled ‘primary’, ‘social’, ‘promotions’, ‘updates’ and ‘forums’. By using these tabs, you can drag your emails into categories, keeping your primary inbox nice and clean.
16. Consider a to-do list
Even if we receive an email about something we need to follow up on or buy, we create an Asana task and add running notes until we’ve done enough research to make the purchase.
Asana is great for following up on pre-op assessment and pre-payment for future lists too:
17. Close your email
If you need help focusing on your most important tasks, close your email account. Simply stop looking at it. If you do use a to-do-list such as Asana, your list is the only thing you need to keep an eye on. If you have limited time at your desk, ask yourself what your top priority is, and focus on that.
18. Make emails fun
It’s easier said than done, perhaps, but trust us on this one. Try setting a timer (we love the Pomodoro Google Chrome extension) and ruthlessly go through your emails to work out what your need to read that day, archiving or boomerang-ing the rest. Tomorrow, try and do it faster. You’ll be an email ninja in no time!
Tidy email, tidy mind
1. Use a secondary email account
It’s important, however, that you only receive email notifications from one important email account. We use two Gmail accounts; our professional account sends us notifications and is set up on our computers. The other Gmail account is the one we use to sign up to mailing lists, for online purchases, for social media and for social contacts.
Our primary account is linked to the Gmail app on our iPhones and sends us notifications when new emails arrive. The other account uses the standard iPhone ‘Mail’ app and only shows us our emails when we choose to check the inbox, or when we have some downtime.
2. Unsubscribe, unsubscribe, unsubscribe!
If you’re no longer interested in what a company or individual has to say, or don’t have the time to read their messages, stop receiving them.
3. Report spam
It only takes a second. Report any unsolicited newsletters by clicking the ‘report spam’ button. This way, any future emails from that email address will go straight to your spam folder. If you did originally sign up to the mailing list, avoid bad karma by unsubscribing instead. If you report an email as spam, the sender will be penalised by Google, so it’s best to be fair.
4. Delete big files
If you’re getting close to your 15GB Gmail limit, type the following into the search bar: “larger:10M older_than:2y”. Delete any old emails that have large attachments. They’ll be clogging up your account and, if you do reach your limit, will prevent you from receiving new messages.
5. Use a URL saver like Evernote
Keep track of any articles you want to read later using a URL saver / clipper. This way, you can delete the email from your inbox without missing anything interesting. Alternatively, send these emails to your secondary email account, and read them at your leisure.
Evernote is available as both a browser extension or an app.
6. And if all else fails…
If you’re looking at your email inbox now, don’t have a clue where to start and are truly overwhelmed, we have a bold suggestion. Consider archiving every single email in your inbox right now. If something is important, you’ll still be able to find it later. Be careful though… archive your emails rather than deleting them! If someone really wanted to get in touch with you, they’ll contact you again. Whatever you do… make sure you don’t accidentally archive any of those all-important pre-op forms!
We hope these tips are useful to you and provide some valuable food for thought. If you have any questions, think we’ve missed anything important from our list, or have some handy tips of your own, we’d love to hear from you!