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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

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.

                      Sean Ogle, Location 180, LLC

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                      The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

                      The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

                      It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

                      Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

                      “You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

                      In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

                      New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

                      There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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                      So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

                      What is the productivity paradox?

                      There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

                      In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

                      He wrote in his conclusion:

                      “Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

                      Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

                      How do we measure productivity anyway?

                      And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

                      In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

                      But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

                      In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

                      But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

                      Possible causes of the productivity paradox

                      Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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                      • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
                      • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
                      • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
                      • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

                      There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

                      According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

                      Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

                      The paradox and the recession

                      The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

                      “Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

                      This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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                      According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

                      Looking forward

                      A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

                      “Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

                      Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

                      “Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

                      On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

                      Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

                      Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

                      Reference

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