6 tools for getting more out of your email
I have a confession to make: a grappling addiction has been troubling me for the past year or so – subscribing to newsletters, future releases, LinkedIn groups, startups that haven’t even launched and basically anything that sparks my interest in the first 30 seconds of scrolling on a given web page. And although some form curiosity is constantly listed among most common found traits in entrepreneurial spirits – which puts me in good company, at least mentally for now -, it’s taking its toll on the way I am able to deal with the tens of e-mails making their way to my inbox.
Checking e-mail frequently is already known as a productivity diminisher, so the only thing I’ve actually been able to do up to now which really works is having a fixed amount of time during which I only check e-mail. No ifs or buts. Having 30 minutes or so in your least productive moment of day to go quikcly through e-mails and act on those which need acting is the basic thing you need to do if you’re flooded with messages. But since this has stopped being enough some time ago, I went looking for the best ways and/or tools to better manage my e-mail – here the top ten e-mail hacks myself as well as you should apply now. Bear in mind that the below solutions are tailored for Gmail, which is my currently used e-mail client; where applicable, I will point out if these are available for other e-mail clients as well.
Hacking your inbox requires the ability to sort instantly any e-mail and see if it needs immediate attention or not. The most straightforward way I usually do that is verifying who the sender is; since Gmail – and any e-mail client, for that matter – only shows the name of the sender while in standard list mode, my best chance of verifying who the sender is would be to go all the way through his/her e-mail, down to the signature, and that is largely inefficient.
Rapportive may have a good solution to this issue. It’s a Google Chrome/Mozilla Firefox extension working with Gmail, produced by LinkedIn, which shows in the right-hand side of each e-mail, a picture of the sender, their location, job and company, as well as shared connections, all pulled from their LinkedIn profile. Plus, let’s say someone is pitching you an idea, or trying to establish rapport with your business – you can instantly connect with them via LinkedIn without leaving your e-mail. The only downfall of Rapportive is that you still have to open each e-mail for it to be effective. Maybe implement a tooltip over each sender’s name in the list display would prove to be an even more efficient hack?
Sidekick by Hubspot
When sending a lot of e-mail each day, especially when dealing with clients, possible new contacts or other people which have tried to connect with me, one thing that I’d like to be on top of is e-mail which people have not responded to, because that’s content to which I was interested enough to respond to or react by e-mail. Hubspot, a market leader in inbound marketing, offers Sidekick, which apart from having some of the functions of Rapportive such a viewing profiles of people sending you e-mail, it can also track which of your sent e-mails have been opened by their recipients, which is extremely useful when verifying which e-mail needs follow-up actions.
For a financial upgrade to $10 per user monthly, you can have access to unlimited notifications on recipients opening you e-mail. Soon enough, Hubspot plans to include e-mail scheduling capabilities, allowing even better impact of your e-mails which, in turn, will require less time for you to spend in your inbox. Sidekick may also be used to hack Outlook accounts, if that’s your custom e-mail account used at your office.
While running across tools allowing you to see whether your e-mails have been seen or not, I figured that the reverse might also prove to be a problem, and not only a hack: what if I want to see which of the e-mails I receive have tracking pixels enabled, so that the sender can actually see, in a Whatsapp-esque style, if I’ve opened their email? That would only open the gates to even more e-mail flooding my inbox, which would beat the purpose of any hack.
In this case, Ugly E-mail promises to be a good addition to my e-mail client. Featured on Product Hunt, Ugly E-mail checks all incoming e-mail to see which of them come from an e-mail account using a tracking tool, and then marks them with the “evil eye” for easy spotting and avoiding. Currently, it supports tracking pixels from Streak, Yesware, Mandrill, MailChimp and many more.
People are not always very good at writing e-mail copy, simply because it’s so complicated to bundle whatever you want to say in an e-mail title, so much so that your intended recipient will open your e-mail. That being said, a lot of important e-mail may be left out due to my sender’s inability to communicate onto me what their intended purpose for sending the e-mail is.And if it’s important e-mail from my perspective, I wish I had a simple method to find that out, even if copy was bad.
TL;DR E-mail’s algorithm seems to be achieving that, as it takes the first 30 words of each e-mail and turns it into an actionable social media-like post, on which you can reply if needed. In social media style, you can also send “likes” to e-mails. Unlike other e-mail hacks, it’s available as a standalone iOS and Apple Watch app, with the latter providing additional capabilities such as read-time estimation and sending longer e-mails to your iPhone inbox for later read.
Since using Pocket constantly for the past year to save content I want to revert to later when I have more time on my hands, I have felt the need to be able to do the same with e-mails that seem to be interesting, while being able to remember to revisit them later. Of course Gmail offers the standard tagging and favorite color-coded stars for this, but if I constantly receive e-mail that seems more relevant even only for the fact that it’s more recent, important stuff easily gets left behind.
For this, I plan using SaneBox and its inbox management hacking facilities. SaneBox can create folders connected to alarms that remind you when you want to read an e-mail depending on that folder’s label – Later, Tomorrow at 2 PM, Next Week and so on – where you can drag-and-drop e-mails which you plan on reading later on. These will be snoozed up until that point and revived to your inbox whenever programmed. There’s also a folder called Black Hole where you can drag all e-mails from senders which you do not want to hear from ever again. A 14-day trial is available, with plans starting at $7 per month after that.
Remember I said in the beginning that I seem to be having a rough time not subscribing to any kind of website that seems even remotely interesting – and this leads to pain-filled moments when I just have to delete scores of newsletter e-mails which may, and usually do contain interesting stuff.
I’m glad I ran across Unroll.me, a specific hacking tool to be used for all newsletters and subscriptions in your inbox. Unroll.me combines all these into one single place and allows you to easily unsubscribe for what you really don’t want to receive anymore. But the fun part starts afterwards, when the remaining content is organized in a customizable daily digest e-mail, with information from all those newsletters. After allowing Unroll.me to scan my inbox for subscription, I found out that these amount in the hundreds – 259, to be more precise!
The next step will be taking all these hacks for a spin in the following fortnight, and of course I’ll revert with conclusions and possible improvements with my e-mail usage I have seen – for the record, I’m using RescueTime on all my device to track weekly my time spent using each and every app or software, so I’ll have a clear evidence of what and if something happens.
How do you get along with your e-mail? What hacks have you been using in your day-to-day activity in order to be more productive and less e-mail addicted? Let me know in the comments.