Pulling The Ol’ Switcheroo

It can be daunting. It’s downright scary for some. Some fret it will double the amount of time the have to spend. Others worry that they might miss something important that they can never get back. All this anxiety is caused by one thing: pulling the ol’ switcheroo.

But it doesn’t have to be so hard. Here are some tips I have picked up along the way, for I have switched many a time, that might help you out. But switching what? Switching emails. More specifically, switching to Gmail.

Step One – Choose Your Service

In this case I am going to assume that you are switching to Gmail, because it’s the best web-based email, heck! best email service period, that I have ever used. If you’re still contemplating which service to use, go ahead and use Gmail.

But in order to make this guide more than just for people switching to Gmail, I will walk through some of the more general processes.

You need to decide which service is best for you. There are several things to consider:

  • Stability of the service.
    • Is there a chance the company will go under any time soon?
    • Do they have a proven track record of great services to their customers?
    • Will they update the service regularly so that it doesn’t become archaic in a few short years?
  • Cost of service.
    • Some email companies charge for many of their features. Are the features you need going to be charged for?
  • Features
    • Compatibility
      • Can you access your email with Apple Mail, Thunderbird, or Outlook?
      • Will the address book allow importing of your contacts?
      • Can you access it with any major browser?
    • Calendar
      • Is there a calendar?
      • Is it full-featured and easy to use?
      • Can it be imported or synchronized with a desktop calendar?
    • Groupware
      • Can you collaborate on files (spreadsheets, presentations, documents, etc.)?
      • Can you share calendars?
      • Can you upload and share photos?
    • File-sizes / Storage
      • Are you able to email big enough file-sizes to suit your needs?
      • Is there enough offered storage space to suit your needs?
    • Organization
      • Does it use folders or labels to organize emails?
      • Does it group together email “threads” or conversations?
      • Does it allow for contact groups?
    • User Interface
      • Is it easy to use and understand?
      • Is it customizable?
      • Does it maximize your time spent?
      • Does it take a long time to load when you click on anything?

This list could go on and on. You need to evaluate these things because if you don’t and you go ahead and choose an email service, you will be stuck with these aspects of it until you choose to undertake another switch.

For me, and many others, Gmail offers the best of all these aspects of email services.

Once you decide for yourself which service best suits you, it’s time to move on to step two.

Step Two – Choose Your Address

This step is largely over-looked, but is arguably the most important of all, because it’s something you’ll have to revisit all the time. There are several factors to take into account in this process.

The Embarrassment Factor

You need to choose something that you can’t imagine yourself being embarrassed, or even reluctant about in 20 years. Choosing things like “starfootballguy34982059” or “i_luv_teddy_bears” is probably not going to serve you well for the years to come. Try to think about giving your email address in a serious career job interview. If you wouldn’t want to give it to your prospective, extremely professional, and intimidating boss, then don’t make it your email address.

The Rememberability Factor

You want people to be able to remember your email address easily. Having large amounts of numbers, periods, hyphens, or underscores in the address will only make it harder to remember. Simplicity is key.

Think about telling someone your email address, and them not writing it down. Is there any chance that they’ll remember it the next day when they need to email you? Do everything you can to increase the chances of “next-day-not-written-down-rememberability”.

The Association Factor

This is similar to the rememberability factor, but slightly different. Choose something that is easily associated with you. The most obvious association to your person is your name. The best place to start looking for an email address is with some variation of your name.

Try the simpler ones first like “hpidtz” or “harryp” and if those don’t work, try the more complex versions like “harrypidtz” or “pidtzharry”. If those aren’t available either, try adding a middle initial–“harryrp”, “hrpidtz”, “harryrpidtz”. Then move on to your full name– “harryralphpidtz”.

Finally if these are all taken, you can contemplate adding something more to the address. Just make sure it’s as simple and easy as possible. Don’t choose something like “sweaty_harry-pidtz.0938403.974238-7”.

Once you have your perfect name, go ahead and finish signing up for the email service. Then move on to step three.

Step Three – The First Switch Email

Now go back to your old email service, log in, and compose an email to everyone you want to know your new address. (One of the good things about switching email addresses is that you can throw off that annoying guy who forwards you ridiculous chain-letters) Make sure you also address the email to your new email address. You’ll see why later.

In that email, make it clear that you are switching email addresses, explicitly give them your new address, and inform them that you will not be checking your old one anymore, ever. This might seem a bit harsh, but the best way to switch is to do a hard switch. One thing I have realized is that if you keep checking and responding to your old email address, people will keep writing to it, thereby prolonging the switch.

If you stop replying to your old email address, people will eventually stop sending emails to it. If they somehow missed the fact that you have a new address, and they have something terribly important to communicate to you via email, they will contact you by another means to update their information.

You can keep checking your old email address periodically while you wait for people to switch. Just don’t reply to any of the emails. If there is an extremely important email that demands your response, reply to it with your new email address, and tell them that you have switched and give them your new email address within the mail (yes, even though you are sending from it).

Step Four – Address Book Migration

Here’s where I am going to get specific to Gmail, but don’t fret. Most modern email clients have a functionality to import a contact list or address book. The problem you may run into is your old email address not having a way to export your address book into a file that you can import elsewhere.

Go into your old email account and find the place where all your contacts are managed and try to find a button or link that says “Export” or “Export Contacts”. If you can’t find these things, you’re out of luck, and it’s a good thing you’re switching because your email service really sucks.

But wait! Remember way back when you sent that first “Switch Email”? Remember how you sent it to yourself too? The reason you did that is so that you could easily add all those email addresses to your Gmail contact list if your old email service didn’t offer a way to export contacts. It’s simple: all you have to do is hit “Reply All” to that message from within your new Gmail account, and all those email addresses will be automatically added to your contacts list in Gmail. Easy huh? Now you just have to go and manually add names and any other information to them.

If you do find a way to export your contacts, make sure it’s a .csv (comma separated value) file, or a vCard file. Most modern email services can also import contact information in the form of a .csv or vCard file (two industry standards). Gmail can import .csv files and limited vCard files. Read more about importing contacts into Gmail >>

Once you have imported your desired contacts into Gmail, you can move on to step five.

Step Five – The Second Switch Email

Now you’re almost done. But there is at least one more thing you need to do before you can called yourself “switcheroo’ed.” You have to send one more switch email. Yes, that’s right. One more, even though you already sent one. People are generally clueless, so it’s good to make things really obvious.

Now that you have the contacts in your email service, you can simply compose an email addressed to those you want to notify again about your switch. This email can say basically the same thing, but I would switch it up a bit, just so that people know they aren’t getting the exact same email twice.

Make sure you tell them your new address, and make it clear that you will no longer be receiving or replying to emails on your old address. Remember, a hard switch is the best and fastest switch. Resist replying or checking your old email.
Once you have the second switch email sent, I would consider you officially switched! Congratulations! What follows are some extra things you might want to consider doing to make sure you have all your loose ends tied up.

Appendix A – Tying Off Loose Ends

  • If there is a way to officially close your old email account, so that people who send to that address will receive a failed delivery notification, you can consider doing that.
  • Go and make sure all your online accounts (Amazon, Facebook, newsletters, etc.) have your new email address in your profile information.
  • Make sure any other physical memberships (clubs, churches, etc.) have your new email address.

Have anything to add to this guide? Got questions, problems, or see a discrepancy? Go ahead and leave your comments!

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