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Ask the Entrepreneurs: 11 Ways to Make Your Inbox Less of a Nightmare

Ask the Entrepreneurs: 11 Ways to Make Your Inbox Less of a Nightmare
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Ask The Entrepreneurs is a regular series where members of the Young Entrepreneur Council are asked a single question that aims to help Lifehack readers level up their own lives, whether in a area of management, communication, business or life in general.

Here’s the question posed in this edition of Ask The Entrepreneurs:

What’s your favorite email hack?

1. Set up an Alias

Robert Castaneda

    Google Apps and Gmail have a feature where you can add a “+” to your name. For example: robert+receipts@servicerocket.com. You can use these to set up an alias for websites that send you receipts to help you easily filter where information goes when it comes into your inbox.

    Robert Castaneda, ServiceRocket

    2. Install Rapportive

    Ben Lang

      If you use Gmail, Rapportive is by far the most useful email plug-in you can install. It lets you see the social profiles of the people you’re emailing and easily connect with them on the side.

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      Ben Lang, Mapped In Israel

      3. Unsubscribe From Things

      Scott Ferreira

        I have had many friends and colleagues complain about their onslaught of emails and ask me what I do about it. For one, I cut the BS and unsubscribe from all the stuff that has built up over the years. Secondly, even if I still really want to be subscribed, I have it auto-filtered in Google so that I know I can go check it out at a later time since it typically isn’t that important.

        Scott Ferreira, MySocialCloud

        4. Filter Obsessively

        Kelly Azevedo

          I use Gmail, and its advanced filtering options have saved me hours a day and reduced my stress! Even if it’s an email that I need to read, already having a label applied saves me time and means I can organize thousands of messages effortlessly. Sure, you can manually move emails to a folder, but automating this process means I can have 200+ emails a day and only 20 or so in my inbox most days.

          Kelly Azevedo, She’s Got Systems

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          5. Create an “Answer Later” Folder

          Michael Margolis

            I constantly parse my inbox and move non-priority items into a second folder. Only clients, business development or important staff emails get my attention. This allows my inbox to stay manageable at around 15 to 40 emails at any given time. Once a day, and especially on the weekends, I batch process the unanswered correspondence in the “Answer Later” folder.

            Michael Margolis, Get Storied

            6. Use Outlook’s Offline Functionality

            Aaron Schwartz

              I’ve fallen into the trap of managing my time by what’s in my inbox. I love Gmail but find the chat and stream of incoming email to be distracting. Their offline product isn’t quality, meaning that when I’m working, I always see a stream of new work! Outlook offline is awesome, allowing you to work on projects without any external distractions.

              Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches

              7. Use Boomerang for Gmail

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              doreen-bloch

                Boomerang for Gmail is a fantastic tool for managing the email inbox. Not only does it enable you to send away emails until a designated time, it enables you to program emails for strategically timed sends, too.

                Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.

                 

                8. Don’t Check Your Email

                Wade Foster

                  The only time I’ve ever gotten sucked into email is when I started checking it compulsively. Now I try to only check email once midday and once at night. I spend an hour each time and answer as many emails as I can. The most important ones get answered first, and I go as far down the list as I can. Sometimes, I’ll make it to “inbox zero” and sometimes not. Either way, I’m less stressed about email.

                  Wade Foster, Zapier

                  9. Use Apps to Keep Your Inbox at Zero

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                  There are three apps that all keep me at “inbox zero” at least once a day: The first and second are Boomerang for Gmail and the Mailbox iOS app. I use them to track follow-up emails and snooze emails until later. The third app is SaneBox, which automatically moves less important emails out of your inbox and into another folder. Then, once a day, it sends a summary email of what you missed.

                  Henry Balanon, Detroit Labs

                  10. Identify Email Patterns With Toofr!

                  Ryan Buckley

                    We use Toofr! all the time to identify email patterns at small and large companies. We found early on that sending the right email to the right person yields high open rates and positive responses. This trick helped us generate over half a million dollars of revenue in 2012.

                    Ryan Buckley, Scripted, Inc.

                    11. Answer the Same Questions With Canned Responses

                    sean ogle

                      I answer the same 10 or so questions all the time. With Gmail Labs’ Canned Responses, all I have to do is hit a button, and my desired response pops up. Add a quick personal open and close to this, and you have the most effective tool for mass email response I know of.

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                      Sean Ogle, Location 180, LLC

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                      1 7 Effective Ways To Motivate Employees in 2021 2 How a Project Management Mindset Boosts Your Productivity 3 5 Values of an Effective Leader 4 How to Motivate People Around You and Inspire Them 5 The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

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                      Last Updated on July 21, 2021

                      The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

                      The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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                      No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

                      Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

                      Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

                      A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

                      Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

                      In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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                      From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

                      A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

                      For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

                      This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

                      The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

                      That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

                      Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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                      The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

                      Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

                      But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

                      The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

                      The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

                      A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

                      For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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                      But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

                      If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

                      For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

                      These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

                      For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

                      How to Make a Reminder Works for You

                      Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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                      Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

                      Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

                      My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

                      Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

                      I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

                      More on Building Habits

                      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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                      Reference

                      [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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