Inbox survival tactics

Like many of you we here at Marketing Signals spend a large part of our working week managing the endless torrent of email that arrives in our inboxes. Marketing Signals is a highly transactional business and that combined with the fact that I help take on first line support for LinkRisk too means its more of a flood than a trickle nowadays.

In this post I would like to share with you some of the tips and tricks that help keep me sane and allow me to stay on top of the inbox without compromising my ability to get the actual work of helping to run three businesses completed.

NB This is written for those of you who use Gmail to run your inbox, many of the points will apply to other email clients but Gmail is what I use so thats what I can talk about.

A bit of background.

Prior to Gareth and I merging our companies to become one entity I ran my own offshore team and had a history of automation and of managing my time so I kept balance in my life, the workload at Marketing Signals is a factor above what I have had to cope with before but that way of approaching things has served me well.

I like to think about email as having the potential to ‘own a significant part of your brain’ and quite frankly I don’t really want to get myself in a situation where email takes up any more of my thinking than it really deserves or needs to.

 

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So given the fact that we all want to maintain sanity and increase our output whilst still having time left to live a life and have some fun, what can we do to keep email from getting out of hand?

Email handling tips

First off lets look at some general rules on how to approach your inbox.

Don’t be a slave to it

Checking every 20 seconds isn’t going to help you get through the day. Train people to accept the fact that you will be checking no more than once an hour.

Its not the first thing to do in the morning

However tempting it may be, waking up and reaching for your phone to check the inbox is not a productive way to start the day. A better way to start is to wake up and use the first hour / commute to think about problems you need to solve that week or thinking through goals and where you are headed with different projects.

Don’t let mail sit in your inbox for any length of time

If an email has sat in my inbox for more than an hour then I am simply procrastinating rather than acting, learn to spot when you are and give yourself a good talking to.

Each email will fall into one of these categories: –

  • Action for you (Do it, Boomerang (see later) for action at a time)
  • Action for someone else (Send it on and Boomerang a follow up date or time)
  • Information (Archive it for when you need it, Boomerang it should you need to ensure its reviewed)

Everything else is just fluff and can be archived straight away. Remember archiving doesn’t kill the email, it just takes it out of the inbox for now.. you can always search for it when you need it.

General rules

First thing in the morning do a sweep of the inbox and archive out anything that you don’t have to read or action. If you have extra time review what you are archiving and try to prevent recurring items from arriving in the first place.

If you can unsubscribe from pointless emails do so

If you cannot unsubscribe (our ticket system sends me masses of email that I don’t need to action but its good to have the ability to search for it should I need to action something at a later date) use Gmail filters to auto archive those emails before you even see them. Remember you can also apply a label using the filter to make it even easier to see everything when you need to.

Tools to help you manage the inbox

Boomerang

Boomerang is hugely important to the way I handle email. Its a paid service (the personal plan costs $4.99 a month) but is worth its weight in gold.
http://www.boomeranggmail.com/

Here is a quick video they have to show it in action: –

Some things that Boomerang allows you to do: –

  • If an email arrives that I don’t need to action till I get home in the evening I simply type ‘8 pm’ in the boomerang box and it will disappear until 8pm.
  • If its an email I don’t need to action today but will have more time in the morning to read and action I click Boomerang tomorrow morning and its gone until then.
  • If I want to remember to follow up on a sales lead or support enquiry I send the email but include a Boomerang to pop back into my inbox in 2 days time if I haven’t had a reply already.
  • You can also use Boomerang to delay when you send email out. If you want to make sure a supplier sends you that report for the start of the month just create a nice reminder email and set it to send later with a date of the last day of that month.

For me Boomerang has replaced all the todo lists and apps I used before and kept my whole view inside my inbox.

Unrollme

Unrollme is a great service that allows you consolidate all your newsletters or notification emails into one daily digest. So all those eBay notifications or all the emails you get from that Hotel site with offers now no longer hit your inbox and just all arrive in one daily summary email for you to review at your leisure.

https://unroll.me/

Unroll.me from Unroll.me on Vimeo

 

Mailboxapp

If you spend a lot of time away from the office then keeping on top of the incoming mail can be a challenge. To make this as painless as possible I use Mailboxapp (http://www.mailboxapp.com/) for the iPhone. This allows me to see my inbox and swipe right to archive all those messages that don’t matter in a very fast and visual way.

Tools to help you make more of your communication

Successful email handling isn’t all about delegation and simplification, sending good email can also be optimised.

Rapportive

Rapportive is an excellent add on to Gmail that shows you more information about the person you are communicating with. Seeing information like their Twitter account, their LinkedIn details and recent emails you’ve exchanged can really help you in your email. “Thanks for that quote, love the picture you posted on Twitter about the new office… everything is really coming together for you!” etc

rapportive
Its also very handy that Rapportive includes a photo of the person you’re emailing, vital when you spend as much time as I do on a conference stand 🙂

http://rapportive.com/

Skitch

Skitch is a very simple screen capture tool brought to you by the people from Evernote. I constantly use Skitch to grab and annotate a screenshot to illustrate a point I am making or include some graphical data from one of our internal tools. Skitch allows you to grab a section of the screen, pixelate out anything that you don’t want to share and add arrows and notation to draw attention to a section.
You can simply then click on the PNG icon at the bottom and drag it into your email, no exporting or saving!

http://evernote.com/skitch/

Recordit.co

Recordit is Mac only I’m afraid… It allows you to quickly record your screen and share the video instantly. You simply drag around a section of your screen, click record and it will record that section. When you finish it will upload it to their server and pop the link to the video on your clipboard so you can paste it into your email.

Here is a 10 second example..

http://recordit.co/eCJEZ2a5J0

Great for sales, great for customer service, invaluable for technical support.

I hope this guide has highlighted some useful tools and tactics and I hope that the time you will save will now be used to do something productive, or browsing Youtube and Instagram… whatever 🙂

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