The email inbox has become the domestic housecat of our existence. If we neglect it, we’re afraid it might hunt us and kill us.
We humans send well over 100 trillion emails a year. No, that isn’t a madeup number to emphasize “a lot”, it’s reality. One hundred. Trillion. We can’t conceptualize that but it just looks ridiculous: 100,000,000,000,000.
And when we treat every new email as part of our to-do list, it’s no wonder that we often find ourselves roaming the streets of Panicville, both repulsed and addicted to the sights and sounds of unread messages. email@example.com. Shame on you,push notification. Shame on you.
So, now that we understand the numeric reality of our lunacy a bit, let’s jump into the tools that can help us manage the dashboard of our lives, and one tool that changes coffeeshop productivity forever.
Filters – Taps have filters. Air conditioners have filters. Filing cabinets are only in existence to filter out other files. The verb, to filter means: to pass through a device to remove unwanted material. So why can’t emails have filters? Well they do.
You can set up a filter that automatically sends any email from a particular sender directly to a subfolder of your choosing (Think: An inbox that is out of your stream of consciousness). And keep your battle axes at bay, this subfolder’s font gets bold and it tells you how many emails are in there, just like your inbox.
Just because someone emailed you doesn’t mean you have to read it right now. And you don’t ever need to be bothered by an amazon.com receipt in your inbox, ever.
Boomerang (gmail only) – Maybe my favorite email add-on, Boomerang allows you to specify the time you want a sent email to reach the recipient’s inbox. Whoa. What?
Say I get an email at 9PM at night. I shouldn’t be looking at my email at 9PM but the tractor beam of…needing….to…feel…important sucked me in. I could answer this email right now because it’s a simple answer but I don’t want to get in a back and forth with this person during Game of Thrones. But I also don’t want to let the email sit there for the morning because that will just add on to the things I need to do. So, boomerang allows me send the email at 9PM but it won’t go out until the time I specify. Maybe that’s 3AM, maybe it’s 8AM, maybe it’s in 3 days. Whatever it is, once I click send, it’s off my to-do’s.
Followupthen – I just told you to not let people control when you return an email. But what if that person forgets to email you back? I don’t own a wolverine, but my digital self does. It’s called: Followupthen (you can also use www.followup.cc. boomerang can also do a version of this).
You can put firstname.lastname@example.org in a bcc, and in exactly 4 days, you’ll get the email you sent, sent right back to your inbox. Now you never have to write down or remember to follow up with this person because you handled that task while you were writing the message.
You can also send an email to email@example.com reminding you to do whatever you need to do in 30 days. Sure, all these follow ups can clutter your inbox if you have the follow-through of an armless man but if you know how to use it, you can stop trying to remember important things, or stop writing them down in obscure notebooks that you keep forgetting to take with you because you rarely write in them.
IFTTT – This lovely acronym stands for “If This, Then That.” It ties into gmail, twitter, facebook, linkedin, google reader and a satchel full of other mediums so that you can automate repetitive tasks that utilize more than one platform, like:
- Thanking someone for following you on twitter
- Saving an email directly to Evernote
- Adding receipts sent to your gmail directly to a google doc spreadsheet
You’ll start realizing that IFTTT is so powerful that it’s almost like having your own personal assistant without having to interview anyone.
Rapportive (gmail only) – I like to call it, “Proper stalking”. It’s a social media aggregator that pops up on the right side of your screen when you are emailing someone. This aggregator lets you connect to this person on Facebook, twitter, linkedin and such right in the email. Anything that keeps me from doing the things I’m going to do anyway is a friend of mine.
Contactually – I think I’m about to start using this. If you are a freelancer or are someone who depends on having to find and cultivate new clients, Contactually might be for you. From what I gather and from what people tell me, Contactually automatically keeps your digital relationships organized and gives you suggestions on whom you should be following up with and when
Coffitivity – This isn’t an email add on but this has blown my mind. We like going to coffeeshops to work because:
a) being around other people calms us
b) Ambient noise is good
c) You feel part of society
c) The hot guy/girl we see all the time
d) you think people think you’re bohemian for being at a coffee shop and therefore you think more highly of yourself regardless of whether or not you are actually doing work
The problem is, we too often get caught up in other people’s conversations that we didn’t intend to. Relationships, businesses, god-knows-what else. Well now you can recreate the good of a coffee shop but keep out all of the ridiculous gossip seeping into your eardrums. The site puts on loop the sound of a perfect coffee shop, and when you join your music with it at a low level, the cacophony of sound turns into a symphony of productivity.
Now, just like the giant coffee mugs in that favorite French cafe of yours you love so much: Tres Magnifique!
Were these helpful? What email tools do you use?