Back before the Internet, the world relied on mail deliveries, Federal Express, the telephone and the fax. Once email became the gold communication standard of the business world, the speed of life picked up rapidly. Unfortunately, all this connectivity seems to have given everyone a long list of electronic to-dos ̶ and that means learning how to improve your productivity with the same tools that sometimes slow you down.
Are you in the midst of creating your first startup? Are you working toward an online business degree? Are you a busy professional? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you are likely awash in paperwork, meetings, classes, and more. As such, you really can’t afford to waste time anywhere.
Fortunately, there are many excellent tools and tips for better managing your email. If you make proper use of them, then you can save time, find important emails more easily and be better organized all around. Not only are these good strategies for you to learn now, but they will also come in handy in whatever future you have ahead of you!
Organize That Inbox!
Are you spending too much time looking for emails that you need? If you can’t find the email containing notes from your last meeting or the one with those legal papers, then your inbox is not organized properly. Each and every time you get an email, decide immediately what to do with it. Trash the junk, save important emails in specially named folders, and keep pressing emails in your inbox where you’ll see them first thing. Many email providers provide filters, which you can use to automatically direct emails to specific folders.
You can also filter emails out by the sender, by a word or phrase in the subject line, or by a word or phrase in the email itself – I’m sure you’re already thinking of a few situations where this would be useful! Filter out notes from your meeting to a dedicated folder; send newsletters out of the inbox to a place you can read them when you have time. Ahhh, the joys of a clear inbox.
Save Your Time
Oftentimes, people don’t realize just how much time they’re wasting on one particular task or in one online location. Fortunately, there’s a tool called Rescue Time will allow you to see exactly how much time you’re spending on any given site, including your email account.
As an added bonus, you can use this tool to block certain sites so that, no matter how tempted you are, won’t let you waste time you don’t have. Facebook sucking away all your time? Block it at work.
The Address Book
It might not take much time to enter just one email address manually, but if you’re sending out several emails a day, you can easily throw away more time than you realize. This is why email servers have address books and it’s why you should be taking advantage of them!
Enter the email addresses of your most common contacts for quick composing and sending. You might also want to think about using an email client, such as Gmail, that automatically remembers the name and address of every person you contact. That way, all you have to do is start typing their name and you’ll be able to select their email from a drop-down list.
Do you often find yourself trying to remember details about your contacts? Install the Rapportive plugin for Gmail and it will automatically give you information about anyone you are emailing – such as their full name, job title, website, links to social profiles, and more.
Keep Track of Email Campaigns
Does your startup require you to contact a large number of people by email? Tout can help you keep track of your relationships with these individuals, store email templates, and track their success rates. And if you need to remember to follow-up on your emails, Boomerang will do the remembering (and even the follow up, if you want!) for you.
Crap! Undo! Undo!
Gmail has a few useful tools under Settings > Labs, but my personal favorite is the “Undo Send” option. Enable this setting to give yourself a few seconds to change your mind about that email – I use this if I notice I spelled my recipient’s name wrong!
There’s nothing more annoying than seeing you have an email, rushing to check your account and discovering the email is nothing more than spam. You can reduce spam by limiting the number of places where your email address appears online and by not signing up for lots of different sites or newsletters that promise automatic news deliveries.
If your startup has a website, one way to cut down on spam is to use a contact form instead of posting your email address publicly. Ever notice how big sites like Amazon and Ebay never post their email addresses? If you must list an address, be sure to break it up so that it is not easy for spam bots to detect, like this: John Smith [AT] gmail [DOT] com. But even if you do this, some spam bots are smart enough to figure it out!
Finally, when you do receive a spam email, immediately mark it as such. This will cue your email client to send further emails from that account or similar emails from others to your spam folder.
Got any other useful tools or productivity tips? Be sure to share them in the comments!
About the author: Adrienne Erin is a blogger at Pongra. When she’s not blogging about tech and social media, you might find her practicing her French, whipping up some recipes she found on Pinterest, or obsessing over vintage postcards and stamps.