Getting a virtual assistant to manage your email is more or less the holy grail of productivity, but doing it effectively and securely is devilishly difficult.
The novice level way to do this is just to give someone else your email address and password. They have full access to your Gmail inbox and any other Google properties your account has access to. In some cases, your email address is the super admin account for your entire G-Suite.
Lots of people do this, but it doesn’t make it right. Lots of people also smoke, drink to much, don’t exercise enough and eat unhealthy food, too. They do these things because they’re easy, not because they’re a good idea.
And freely giving access to your Gmail account can have consequences for your business that can be as disastrous as the consequences of poor lifestyle choices are for your health.
Gmail supports mail delegation which allows you to have an assistant manage your inbox for you, but there are a few problems with it. Firstly, they have access to all your email. You can’t restrict them to only a portion of it. Delegates can also permanently delete email, rather than only being able to archive it. This can make a transition from an email that’s a big mess of professional and personal stuff pretty hard to manage.
Secondly, if you’re a G-Suite user, you can’t delegate access to someone that doesn’t have a Gmail account on your own domain, so you have to create an account for anyone who is going to manage your email, in your own G-Suite account, and the address of the person doing the responding will always show up. You can’t just have someone deal with a portion of your email and sign off with their name, it will actually show up with their email address. This means you risk contacts emailing them directly instead of emailing you, and also means you can’t have someone deal with certain replies “as you” if you would rather.
BenkoDesk to the rescue
We created BenkoDesk primarily as a way to allow teams to manage shared email addresses (such as info@, support@, team@ and so on), however the same system can be used to share all or part of your personal email with a VA.
Here’s how to set it up:
- Go to https://app.benkodesk.com/ and click “Sign in with Google”. Connect up the Google account that you wish to delegate access to
- Even if you already have a Trello account, create a new one (for example using an alias of your Gmail account like “email@example.com”) and connect that up to BenkoDesk
- This will automatically create a “BenkoDesk” board for you, and you can follow the instructions to see how it works and import all or some of your email (there’s also a link there to book in your free on-boarding session). Invite your personal Trello account onto your automatically created BenkoDesk board
- Now, login as your “shared” Trello account and create a new board called “Delegated Emails”, invite your personal Trello account to it, and invite your VA to it
Now you can work from your main BenkoDesk board, and any emails you wish to delegate to your VA can be moved onto the second board. You can start by just moving cards manually, but you can also configure BenkoDesk to import from specific Gmail labels directly into lists on your delegated board.
Just be aware that if you move a card from your board to the “Delegated” board manually, you will need to add a label to the card “Mute”, otherwise it will get moved back to your original Inbox list on your personal board everytime a new reply is received.
Once you’ve got the basic structure set up, there’s lots of configuration, customisation and automation options available to you, drop us a line on firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to know more!