I’m constantly looking for ways to save time, free up my schedule and increase my focus. And with email tending to be an intense time-suck, I’ve spent a good deal of effort testing out tools that tame the beast.
The following five email tools have had a huge positive impact on my day-to-day work.
Caveat: I use Google’s G Suite for email and simply log in through a web browser to access it. Those of you using Microsoft Outlook or another email client – or those with IT rules that restrict downloading apps – may not be able to use these specific tools. However, you may have similar features in your email system, so seek them out!
1. Boomerang for Scheduling Emails
Boomerang is an app for Gmail that lets you schedule emails to send later. (Update: Gmail also now includes this feature.) I find this especially helpful because it allows me to better control my schedule. For example, if I need a press release to go out early tomorrow morning, there’s no reason to get up early in the morning to do that. Instead, I’ll set up the emails the afternoon before and schedule them to go out at whichever time I choose.
I pre-schedule emails to clients and colleagues, as well. This is helpful when I think of things during off hours but don’t want people getting emails from me on nights and weekends.
And an added bonus: scheduling your emails in advance can give the illusion that you’re working when you’re not!
2. Meeting Scheduler for Gmail by cloudHQ
Gone are the days of exchanging an average of 27 emails to set up a call or meeting. Meeting Scheduler for Gmail by cloudHQ is a free Google Chrome extension that lets you send out a link so that other people can choose a meeting time with you based on your availability. It works directly from Gmail, and is 100% integrated with your Google Calendar.
How it works: When writing an email, hit the calendar icon in your email window. Then enter the meeting details, such as title, duration and location/call-in information, and easily specify your availability. The scheduler creates a link that inserts in the email. Then all the recipient has to do is click on the link and select his/her preference. This triggers a calendar invitation, putting it on your calendar and theirs. It’s practically magic!
3. Unroll.Me for Managing Subscription Emails
If you don’t mind an app having access to all your email data (although they do thoroughly address their security and privacy measures), Unroll.Me can help cut down on your emails and the time you spend checking them.
The first time you set up Unroll.Me, it will bring up a list of all the subscription emails you’re receiving. It found 234 for me (!). You can then easily go down the list to unsubscribe – with a single click – from anything you no longer wish to receive.
Of the subscriptions that are left, you can go through each and choose to continue receiving it as an email direct to your inbox or you can opt to “Roll it Up” into one daily email. This means that instead of receiving 20 emails every day with various subscriptions to newspapers, professional organizations and 20% off coupons for Bed Bath and Beyond, I can receive one email where they all appear as a snapshot. These are easy to skim, and if I see something that piques my interest, I click to see the full email.
Unroll.Me also alerts you when you’ve been added to new subscription lists, so you can choose to unsubscribe, keep or Roll Up.
4. Pause for Decreasing Distraction
Deliberately cutting the email cord for even an hour or two can be really scary. But, I’ve found I can be so much more productive if I can muster the ability to do so. I’ve also found that just closing my inbox browser doesn’t work. I often need to reference past emails when working on a project, and I just can’t resist looking at new emails that have come in. But using the “pause” function lets me get into my existing emails without alerting me to the fact that new ones have arrived.
If you’re really nervous about pausing your email, you can always put on a short-term out-of-office notice that says something like: My email access will be limited for the next few hours. If you need immediate assistance, please text or call me at… That way, you will get notice of any true emergencies.
5. Out-of-Office for Setting Expectations
Speaking of the automatic out-of-office response, this, in my opinion, is the unsung hero of email tools. It’s working even when we aren’t (or sometimes when we are) – giving immediate response, telling people what’s up and letting them know what to do next.
What I love about out-of-office notices is the safety blanket it provides. Say I’ve gotten my work done for the week and want to play hooky on a Friday afternoon. I put on my out-of-office, which includes a note to call my cell if there’s an urgent need. Guess what – there rarely is! But if there were, I’d know, because the person would call. I can enjoy my Friday afternoon off knowing that whatever emails are piling up in my inbox can wait until Monday.
These are just a few of the many, many tools available to simplify and streamline the chaos that is a PR pro’s inbox. If you have others to share, please tell us about them in the comments section!