In an increasingly digital world, email has become the primary mode of business communication.
That little unopened letter symbol, the blinking red light, the “ding!” of a new message—each has become the string to our puppet, a Pavlov’s bell, if you will, bringing us to immediate attention dozens or, for some, hundreds of times each day.
Emails flood our inboxes, making it difficult to stay on top of conversations and keep organized, which in turn increases stress levels and reduces productivity. In my own quest to conquer the email beast, I’ve come across some great, helpful tools. Below are 10 that can help you increase email productivity and maintain sanity:
Many times, emails are drafted long before they’re sent. Boomerang allows emails to be scheduled and sent later on, providing users ultimate control over their communication. Specifically for Gmail, Boomerang is a free Firefox and Chrome plug-in that gives email communication a strategic advantage.
Gmail has a browser add-on, Rapportive, that turns the ad-filled sidebar into something incredibly beneficial. It allows information about the email sender to appear including links to his or her profile, recent tweets and photos that would otherwise take valuable time to locate. This add-on is free and available for Firefox, Google Chrome, and Safari.
Mailstrom is a free tool enabling users to sort, delete, and unsubscribe from messages in bulk. Emails can be filed by sender, subject, social or shopping categories to keep clutter away from important messages. Mailstrom works with Gmail, Outlook, and other services that support Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP).
Keeping an up-to-date Google contacts list is essential maintaining relationships. WriteThat.Name is a tool that automatically keeps your contacts up to date by running the signature of the email against preexisting contacts to make sure that they don’t have to be updated. The sending/receiving email process runs flawlessly by eliminating time spent manually updating or tracking down contact information.
Waiting for an urgent email to come in can cause worry and distraction while trying to focus on other tasks. AwayFind is a service that sends notices when you get emails through SMS text, Twitter, IM tools like Gtalk and Yahoo, or through an iPhone and Android app. AwayFind filters can be managed according to message priority so only emails of importance render notifications. This service is free for one Gmail and services that support IMAP.
Sorting through dozens of trivial emails to find the important one takes a lot of time and energy. SaneBox offers a solution to this problem by creating folders for messages of top importance to look at later, for news, and a black hole for spam. In just a few clicks, SaneBox automatically organizes email into these folders. This email filtration system is sure to save time and increase peace of mind.
Emails are sent every day with the same “thank you,” “congratulations” or other repetitive phrases. There are many automation tools such as Gmail’s Canned Responses
, and Lifehacker
to help with this. Services such as these are able to automate sentences commonly used to save you time and effort—and head off spelling errors.
ActiveInbox is a Gmail add-on that enables users to categorize emails into actionable tasks, projects, and goals while adding a notes section to each email. Allowing categorization of emails into prioritized actions organizes Gmail inboxes in a way that can help manage tasks on a to-do list. This helpful tool is free for Firefox and Chrome and works seamlessly with Gmail.
With such a large number of messages infiltrating businesses each day, it’s easy to forget to follow up on emails that require a non-immediate response. NudgeMail is a service that reminds recipients to follow-up or respond to an email at just the right time. It works with all email providers and simply requires forwarding the email to addresses like “email@example.com” or “firstname.lastname@example.org.” By using NudgeMail there will never be a forgotten follow-up email again.
Grexit creates a central space where team members can access emails that contain information pertaining to everyone. Unlike Google Drive, Grexit allows sharing without ever leaving your inbox. Explaining and typing up assignment instructions or new policies is extremely time consuming when repeated on an individual basis. Grexit is a great tool available for Google Apps only.
Outlook has a great add-on called Xobini that creates a profile sidebar for senders like Rapportive, as well as updating the user’s address book like WriteThat.Name and enhancing the Outlook search. Available in both free and pro versions, Xobini is a powerful contact information tool to give the user everything he or she needs to know about the sender.
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Keeping an organized inbox is crucial to an efficient and productive team. Try these tools out to minimize time wasted sifting through emails while creating a more structured system to improve daily communication. Have you tried any of these tools?
Abbi Whitaker is the president of The Abbi Agency. Follow her on Twitter @abbijayne or @theabbiagency, and visit her blog, where a version of this story first appeared.