Four hours a day. Thirty hours a week. A thousand hours a year. Estimates for how much time the average professional spends on email vary slightly depending on the survey or study, but whatever the exact number, everyone agrees -- it's a lot. Way too much, in fact.
How do you cut down the amount of time tending your inbox eats up?
There are plenty of email best practices that can help, but the best solution to this tech-based problem might be more tech, suggests Julia Melymbrose on the iDoneThis blog. In her post, she rounds up a ton of email software tools to help you power through your inbox in far less time.
How do you keep track of emails that require follow-up at some particular time in the future? A system of stars? Flags? Calendaring? Praying for a high-functioning memory? Whatever you use now, it probably takes more time and mental bandwidth than FollowUpThen.
"The tool lets you use the bcc field of any email to set up a reminder to follow up with an email at the desired time. For example, typing 'email@example.com' in your the bcc sends you a reminder in three days, so you never have to think about another follow-up time again," explains Melymbrose. Just bcc and forget it until the appointed hour.
One of the most common high-level email mistakes is sending messages at all hours and putting pressure on your team or contacts to interrupt their down time to get back to you, even if the matter isn't urgent. Boomerang solves this issue by letting you compose an email now but send it at a specified later time.
Besides making you less likely to annoy (and burn out) your correspondents, the tool should cut down your inbox time significantly. "One of the biggest email time-wasters is having to re-read emails. With Boomerang, you can significantly cut down on that time by writing your email responses as soon as you read an email," Melymbrose points out.
This one is dead simple to describe -- SaneBox uses an algorithm to identify all the unimportant messages that clog your inbox and automatically moves them to separate folders you can sift through at your convenience. Who wouldn't enjoy that?
If you're like most people, you regularly sign up for newsletters, sales offers, and company updates and then rapidly discover that you're not really all that interested in what they contain. Scrolling down to find the miniscule "unsubscribe" link is annoying, so you waste a small but significant portion of your workweek repeatedly deleting them for years afterward. Instead, you could just use Unroll.me.
It lets you "quickly eliminate all unwanted email subscriptions with one click for a cleaner inbox that lets you be more productive," writes Melymbrose.
There's no need to reinvent the wheel with each email if you use TextExpander. This tool allows you to save snippets of text so you can quickly dash off canned responses to types of emails you get repeatedly. It not only saves time but also helps you respond consistently with your preferred language.
Looking for emails tools for more specialized situations? Check out Melymbrose's complete post for another 10 ideas, as well as pricing information on all the tools she talks about.